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User Archives: John van der Veen

  • Pat Williams on Adoption, Basketball and Living Life with Passion

    Posted on August 27, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Pat Williams is a basketball Hall-of-Famer, currently serving as co-founder and senior vice president of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. As one of America’s top motivational speakers, he has addressed thousands of executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies and national associations to universities and nonprofits. Clients include AllState, American Express, Citrix, Coca-Cola, Deloitte, Disney, Honeywell, IBM, ING, Lockheed Martin, Nike, Millennium Pharmaceuticals and Tyson Foods to name a few. Pat is also the author of over 80 books, his most recent title being The Difference You Make: Changing Your World Through the Impact of Your Influence.

    Pat and his wife, Ruth, are the parents of 19 children, including 14 adopted from four nations, ranging in age from 26 to 40. For one year, 16 of his children were all teenagers at the same time. Currently, Pat has 12 grandchildren and counting…with twins due in July. Pat and his family have been featured in Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, Good Housekeeping, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Focus on the Family as well as all of the major network and cable television news channels.

    I sat down and talked with Pat about his legacy as a father. To find out what motivated this man.  What follows is a candid overflow of his heart. This man is truly living with a passion.

    John: Pat, you certainly have had quite the legacy within both the basketball industry and within the sports community, but then you've also had a legacy over on the adoption side of things as well. Can you share a little bit, before we get in and talk about your book, can you share a little bit about how you and your wife were introduced to the concept of adoption or foster care, and why you as a family have pursued that?

    Pat: For the first 10 years of our marriage, my wife talked non-stop about adopting children that didn't look like us. She talked about almond eyes and I just couldn't fathom it. We had three birth kids and life was good. Finally at the 10-year mark, it became a major issue. Big issue. I realized that I had to take the initiative and get moving on this. Long story short, we learned about two little girls from South Korea who were available. We talked to our children and let them vote.

    John: This was a family process then?

    Pat: Family discussion and a vote. The vote was unanimous, let's do it. What an adventure that was. On September 12, 1983, these two little girls, two and three years old, arrived from Seoul, escorted by a couple of off duty flight attendants. There they were in the Philadelphia airport, handed to us, the new parents of two Korean girls. That launched it. Then I caught the bug. I kept thinking we can take two more. What's four more boys, or two little girls from Romania. At the end of 10 years, we had 14 adopted children. People ask all the time, "Was there a master plan here?" There wasn't. We just kept hearing about these children and felt God saying, "I'll provide." He always did, amazingly. We had enormous food bills and clothing, it was just massive. But to this day, God has always provided what we've needed to get the children raised and educated. I think there's a verse in the book of James. He's very, very big on widows and orphans. God has a special heart and these obviously were orphaned kids that we adopted. That promise is that if you take care of the orphans, God will make sure it works. That's what I've learned. I wish I could tell you that we've got a whole bunch of widow stories, but I don't at this point.

    John: I appreciate your honesty here.

    Pat: Maybe someday.

    John: Someday. Do you think, Pat, that adoption and foster care, the idea of looking at James 1:27 and putting that verse as a stamp on your family, has that influenced the work community that you have been participating in? Have other people within the sports category approached you or they been influenced by that type of methodology?

    Pat: Well, let me just say this, John, when we adopted these children, as years went on, we certainly were not reluctant to do media events. We did many of them, even though the kids were not all that thrilled about it. Nevertheless, we did a great deal of television and newspaper work. My thought was, let’s get the word out and see if we can inspire some other families to get into this whole adoption world. There are millions of kids that need homes, not all of them are available, but there certainly are a bunch of them. That was really the method behind the madness there. We did everything we could to spread the word and inspire other families. From time to time, we will hear from somebody, either with a letter or in person, who said, "We heard about your story, that was the trigger for knowing we needed to go and adopt." They'll talk about their two adopted kids from somewhere in the world. That always makes me feel good, real good actually.

    John: You've inspired, I'm sure, countless others. You have a new book coming out, called Coach Wooden's Greatest Secret. Why don't you just give us some background information about that. What is it about?

    Pat: Coach Wooden was a real hero of mine, as well as for millions of others. He let me into his life in the last decade of his life. I wanted to write a book called, How to be like Coach Wooden. He gave me his blessing, which I was thrilled about it. We did that book. I interviewed about 800 people who knew him or were in his world. That was all encompassing. Then, three years ago I had an idea, which we ended up doing. It was called, Coach Wooden, The Seven Principles That Shaped His Life and Will Change Yours. That goes back when he was in the eighth grade in a little country school in central Indiana. His father gave him a card with a seven-point creed on it. Coach Wooden lived his life by those seven points. That's the meat of that book. This latest book, called Coach Wooden's Greatest Secret, comes from having dinner with him one night years ago. I said to him, "Coach, is there one secret of success, perhaps, that you feel is preeminent, or really most important?” He thought for a minute, and then, in that understated way, said, "The closest I can come," (he wasn’t one to ram anything down your throat), "The closest I can come to one secret of success, is that it’s about a lot of little things done well." That was his little message over dinner that night at the Valley Inn near his home in Encino, California. As we begin thinking, I began to put together all these thoughts about where little things pay off. Little things done well really does make sense, if you do enough of them over a lifetime, it's going to be a pretty successful life. It's a good little reminder, I think, to people to focus on the little things, to do them well, patiently, and in the proper sequence. You really build a good foundation that way.

    John: What would be one of those little things that you have held close and dear to your heart through all these years?

    Pat: I think it would be the way I write books. I save everything, whether it's a story, a little quote, an antidote, or something I read in a book, I’ll mark it. For 30 years or so I've been doing that, just collecting daily something that might be valuable in a book somewhere along the line. If you were to come into my office and the credenza, you know, with the eight drawers that come out, I would think there're probably at least a million cards, which a woman types for me. She takes my material and types it on a card, which is really the research I do for books.

    John: What do you call that filing system?

    Pat: I call it priceless.

    John: [chuckles] Priceless, I love it.

    Pat: If you had ever told me 30 years ago that this would be the result of that accumulation, with no end in sight, but just day-by-day, little by little, I would have been amazed. I've been writing books for 30 years in my head, and these cards make it a reality. There they all are, by category, just capturing one day at a time--a little every day. I think Coach Wooden really has hit it on the head. Successful people just do what is right in front of them, however small; they just get it done. Then John would talk often about making each day your masterpiece. “Make each day your masterpiece.” I think about that a lot. The importance of taking each day—each simple, little day—and maxing it out. Draining the cup dry today. You can't change yesterday and tomorrow. Absolutely, suck the marrow out of the bones today. We can do that.

    John: Coach, as we're sitting here, you're kind of sitting on the edge of your seat, your kind of moving around, you are a passionate man. As I'm just noticing you, you seem like you are full of a passion towards something. What is the one thing you are most passionate about?

    Pat: I think I'm passionate about a number of things. Obviously, my family is a huge passion. I'm passionate about the Orlando Magic basketball team. I'm passionate, always, about the latest book. I'm passionate about my speaking world, my public speaking world. I'm passionate about Jesus. I'm passionate about my Christian walk. It will always be consistent and leave an impact on people. I'm not passionate about golf. I'm not passionate about fishing. I'm not passionate about stamp collecting, I'm passionate about those, maybe five areas of my life, and I stay pretty close to them.

    John: What has God been teaching you lately?

    Pat: That life isn't always the way we plan it. Two and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which I'd never heard of. It's cancer of the bone marrow, actually the blood in the bone marrow. That came out of nowhere. Obviously, it rocked my world and the family's world. I've been dealing with that for the last two and a half years. Responding quiet well to the treatments, which have gone well. I feel good, and am able to keep my full schedule. When an illness like that comes into your world, and you begin to think, "Lord, this is me, your buddy down here. You know, I've got a lot more to do for you, what's the deal here with this?" That was the initial reaction. Then, I realized that God was calling me to another ministry here in the closing years of my life, and it's a ministry to the world of cancer, which is such a huge issue in our country. Huge, one out of two men will deal with it in their lifetime, and one out of three women. Suddenly I'm in a fundraising position. I'm a hospital board member... I'm into things, who would have thought? At least once a day there's a phone call or an email about somebody who's struggling with some form of cancer and needs to talk. Needs a word of encouragement, just to hear that there's hope. I've been called into that world. I never saw that one coming.

    John: Coach, how can we be in prayer for you?

    Pat: Obviously, I covet prayers for my health. For a complete healing. People have prayed so consistently for me. I couldn't begin to thank them all. I'm so grateful. An old ball player, my good friend Bob Boone, who I've know for many, many years, called several months after all this happened and just said, "How are you doing, how are you doing?" I told him, "I'm really responding well; the doctors are pleased. I'm on the road to healing." And Boone, he said to me, "Boy," he said, "This prayer stuff works, doesn't it." That was pretty direct, wasn't it? I appreciate prayers for my health. I also really hope that this next book will impact people. We have so much to learn from the life of John Wooden, who lived till he was 99. He would have been 103 in June. He got close to 100. He was far beyond just a great coach, too, he was the greatest coach of all time. There’s so much wisdom there. So hopefully we're able to capture that in these books that I've done on him. This next one, Coach Wooden's Greatest Secret, is one I’m especially eager to see do well. We also covet prayers for our family, with that many children, 19, and now the grand children, which are coming pretty consistently. We've got 12 grandchildren and two more on the way in July, twin boys. There are a lot of moving parts in the Williams family these days.

    John: I love it.

    Pat: I appreciate that very much John.

    John: Great talking to you.


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Fathers, Adoption, Pat Williams

  • The Life, Legacy and Music of Bill Gaither

    Posted on August 21, 2013 by John van der Veen


    The pages of history have been written by ordinary people who had something extraordinary to say with their lives. Bill Gaither is just such an individual… an Indiana-born kid with an insatiable love for music who grew to become an industry leader who would change the course of gospel music history through the songs he has written and through his influence as a mentor for other artists.

    An avid fan of gospel quartets throughout his childhood, Bill founded his first group, The Bill Gaither Trio, in 1956, while he was a college student. He began teaching English in 1959 because his musical aspirations couldn’t support him full-time… yet. In 1962, Bill did one of the best things he has ever done. He married Gloria Sickal, who became the best writing partner Bill could have found anywhere. The couple spent the first five years of their married life juggling full-time teaching jobs, writing, singing, recording and publishing until music became their full-time career in 1967.

    That's where it all started.

    I had the privilege to sit down and chat with Mr. Gaither. It was more-or-less a walk down memory lane more than anything.

    Mr. Gaither:   It was the music that really caught my attention first. It would be in the late '40s, and I would listen to the radio and I heard a gospel quartet. I just loved four-part harmony, the below base singers and the tenors and how that all worked and it got my attention. Later on I found out what they were singing about, but the first time I heard it, it was just their singing that I liked.

    John:               Do you remember that first artist that you heard?

    Mr. Gaither:   They're the group called the Big Four Quartet. Nobody knows much about them.

    John:               I'm sure there are a few that still do. What was the first concert that you went to?

    Mr. Gaither:   I went to their concert. They were appearing at our little town. They were from Indianapolis and were on a 50,000 watt pure channel station, so they traveled throughout the Midwest. They came to our little town of Alexandria and I went see them.

    John:               At that time, Mr. Gaither, it seems like traveling gospel groups certainly had the ability to tour maybe a little easier than what they do now. Was that a simpler time?

    Mr. Gaither:   They were in smaller venues and didn't require a lot of amplification. It required some, but it didn't require the kind amplification you have to have in arenas these days. It was good. It was just a car so they weren't carrying around a lot of equipment. I think they always carried some product too, to sell.

    John:               Growing up there in Central Indiana, you had your eyes set on being a school teacher, right? Or did you always think that maybe at some point you would be involved in the music industry?

    Mr. Gaither:   When I was a kid I thought I could do something in music, but after I got out of high school I've realized that that's a tough road to go. I went to college, and majored in education and worked as a teacher for the first 10 years of our professional life.

    John:               Were you always a song writer? Were you writing songs all the way through that time? Did you write songs in childhood, et cetera?

    Mr. Gaither:   No. I didn't start writing songs until I headed out of college. I started writing songs because we were running out of material that our group could sing. We were just running out of material that we could do.

    John:               How could that be? Running out of material, that is rather ironic. How many songs you have written through these years?

    Mr. Gaither:   We've probably written about 700 or 800 songs. I’m not sure, but the copyright department keeps track of all of that.

    John:               That's incredible. You're still writing today?

    Mr. Gaither:   Yes. Not as much as we did in the early days, but I think we're writing good quality stuff at least.

    John:               Absolutely. At what point then when you became a schoolteacher—you said you were doing that for the first 10 years of your gospel career—at what point did you make that transition…?

    Mr. Gaither:   When my night job overtook my day job. I wasn't being honest and fair, I don't think, to the school system that was paying me. I was writing a bit and we were travelling quite a bit, and I can remember the day I went to the principal, and he said, "I knew this day was going to come. I hate to see it come." I tell him, I said, "I can't keep pushing this on both ends." He said, "Man, we hate to lose you as a teacher, but you've always got a job in case you want to come back."

    John:               That's great. Mr. Gaither, going back to the songs that you and your wife have written through the years, when you go through your catalog, what do you think is the most important song that you guys have ever written?

    Mr. Gaither:   That's hard to say from our perspective because we've got some pretty important songs that never really got into top. When I'm asked that question, I usually go back to the songs that the people ask for and the songs that seem to rise to the top. Among these is “Because He Lives.” We've got that from all over the country and all over the world. We just went to Norway last year in an arena with 8,000 people singing “Because He Lives” in Norwegian too. We just went down to Brazil, Sao Paulo, and 8,000 people down there were singing “Because He Lives” in their language, in Portuguese. We go over to Hungary and the same thing happened there with “He Touched Me.” That song is always at the top of the list of songs that people know that we've done. There's something about that name.

    John:               When you looked at all of the hymns or gospel songs that have been written from centuries ago, has there been one that you or Gloria continue to go back to that has definitely impacted your heart?

    Mr. Gaither:   There'd be several there, and they would have to be the category of hymns. “How Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is always a very meaningful lyric and the lyrics of “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” would be one I back again too. Some of the gospel lyrics too, like “The Love of God could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made. Songs like Hamlin's “Until Then My Heart Will Go On Singing.”

    John:               Mr. Gaither, when you look back at your ministry through the years what sticks out in your mind as maybe one of your greatest achievements?

    Mr. Gaither:   I don't know. In fact, I hope I brought some people together. I think ... I hope we've done something to unite the body of Christ. There are so many things that they divide it with today, but I hope that we have united some folks. I told somebody the other day that ... what are you doing? I think I'm a bridge.

    John:               That's a fantastic statement. What do you think, kind of running down the rabbit trail here a second Mr. Gaither, what do you think of the church here in the United States here in the West recently? Are we in trouble? Are we on the right track? Are we continually focusing on the centrality of the gospel?

    Mr. Gaither:   I'm quite encouraged with the church at this day in effect. I think as a whole the church is doing a lot of doing of significant things in the community.  I think with the dawn of this century, we've become more of a light. I learned a little chorus in Sunday School, I think it's a very important chorus. It goes, “This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine.” I hear people talk about we got to fight the darkness. I'm not sure we fight anything. I think what we do ... the only way to fight the darkness is let your little ... let your light shine and I think if you get enough lights shining, the darkness dissipates. I think I see that more and more all the time. I think the church is finally coming of age and realizing it's more than just talking, it's more than rambling all the time about what we're about. It's about being and being the Body of Christ and being the extension of Christ in the culture and I think we're making a difference.

    John:               Just thinking back over what immediately flooded into my mind when you said that, was one of the times that I was at a Homecoming show. I don't know if you guys still do it, but remember those little flashlights that you had and at some particular point all the lights go dim and everybody starts shining these lights and it's incredible. The whole arena is then lit up with these tiny little lights and it's fantastic. I think what you just said, that picture in your live show is a clear, very visible example of what the church can and should be.

    Mr. Gaither:   I think we have to talk less and walk better.

    John:               That's a good statement. Wow. Mr. Gaither on that note, would you be willing to share what God has been teaching you lately?

    Mr. Gaither:   If I'm on anything here lately it's been on theme with being ... by being viral. By that I mean being what we say we are and doing on a day to day basis by the way we treat the waitress at the waffle house. There's so many different ways to let that light shine and I guess the biggest thing that God is teaching me is just finding more ways that I can be and that I can live out the Scripture.

    John:               Amen. Mr. Gaither, what's on the horizon? What do we have to look forward to for the second half of 2013 from the Homecoming team?

    Mr. Gaither:   I'm 77 years old. I don't even buy green bananas anymore. I'm not sure. I really take ... I don't live much in the future and I don't live at all in the past. I really live in the moment. I live in the day and I take the doors that are opening for me today and try to make as much out of them as I can. I might say today first is I'm just spending most of this day preparing for a trip that we are doing in Indianapolis on November the 30th this fall with Wheeler Mission. It's going to be a major benefit where hopefully we're going to raise close to half a million dollars for the homeless in Indianapolis where our mission has been being the evangelist and outreach for 67 years. It's already there, I don't have to organize them. All I have to do is help them do what they do better. I find myself at this point being preoccupied with that.

    John:               What's the name of that organization?

    Mr. Gaither:   Wheeler Mission in Indianapolis. Been there for 70 years feeding the homeless, taking in the homeless.

    John:               There is a ... let's see. I'm not sure if I have the title correct but there is a Women of Homecoming album coming out this fall, is that correct?

    Mr. Gaither:   Yes, this fall. We just taped it earlier and it's ... all of the videos up to now had been a mixture of both males and females but this is just the women singing and the women's issues are pretty much the same as the male issues but they're wonderful themes about responsibility and themes about commitment, themes about forgiveness, reconciliation, love, trust, hope in a different call of times. The songs are wonderful. Praise and worship. It's going to be a wonderful video.

    John:               Name some of the ladies that will be on the album.

    Mr. Gaither:   Sandy Patty, Kim Hopper, Teranda Green, Amy Grant, Natalie Grant and some of the newer names, like Jamie Grace.

    John:               Quite a selection.

    Mr. Gaither:   Yes.

    John:               Fantastic. I love it. I'm excited already. When you look at the Homecoming albums or videos through the years, how many of them do you think are surrounded around a theme?

    Mr. Gaither:   Many of them are, many of them are not. The theme in the early days was honoring some pioneers who had gone before, which I think was a good thing to do, and then they took on a theme or a life of their own. We had two that we had at Thanksgiving on being thankful and a couple ... we did about three or four with a theme of honoring the Graham organization and the music that's come out of it, with Billy Graham even involved himself with interviews and talks. Then where we have traveled internationally, we did one in Australia, one in England, and one in Africa. It takes on various themes depending where we are. When in New York City at Carnegie Hall that was more of a peace rally thing.

    John:               One last question here for you Mr. Gaither. When you and your wife sit down to relax, who do you listen to?

    Mr. Gaither:   My reading or my listening is all across the board. I still love classical music and would listen to a lot of classical in my car, at the house. I like early country. I'm not real crazy about the current country but I like some of the early country singers. I like a good gospel song.

    John:               Anyone in particular come to mind or just a nice variety?

    Mr. Gaither:   It's pretty much across the board. Now I enjoy listening to the Vocal Band.

    John:               As you well should. There's nothing wrong with that.

    Mr. Gaither:   Of some of those [GVB] projects, I’ve said, "We were better than we thought we were, weren't we?"

    John:               I'm sorry. I said that was my last question. I would follow that up with how about books? Do you and Mrs. Gaither read a lot?

    Mr. Gaither:   We read a lot. We read a lot of ... I read a lot of biography myself. It's interesting to learn from the lives of other people. Things they did right, sometimes things they did wrong but that's always an interesting way. I love history books, I'm quite a historian, and I love good spiritual help books.

    John:               Mr. Gaither, I want to thank you so much for your time today. I know you have an extremely busy schedule and I am so honored to talk with you today. You have been even from a distance such a great example of a godly man and a godly grandfather to me and to my family through all these years, so I'm very grateful for that. I'm thankful that you were able to take my call today.

    Mr. Gaither:   You're very, very kind and we'll look forward to the Women of Homecoming video ... it's very special and it will minister to a lot of people.

    John:               I'm sure it will.

    Mr. Gaither:   Glad to speak with you, my friend. You have a good day.

    When it's all said and done, I am not sure if there is a stopping point for this man.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, Amy Grant, Jamie Grace, Natalie Grant, Gloria Gaither, Gaither Homecoming, Bill Gaither Trio, Sandy Patty, Kim Hopper, Teranda Green

  • 1GirlNation - Taking Over the World

    Posted on August 15, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Talent, passion and youthful exuberance are always a potent recipe for great music, but when you add message-driven lyrics, a finely tuned sense of purpose and five fun-loving girls, therein lays the foundation for an explosive new entry on the cultural landscape. 1 Girl Nation delivers an ear-grabbing, effervescent sound that uplifts audiences by merging engaging melodies with substantive yet catchy lyrics, packing a one-two punch with considerable impact.

    1 Girl Nation is made up of five talented young women, each possessing a strong, distinctive voice and tons of personality. The group includes Kayli, who grew up on military bases all over the world due to her father's career in the Air Force, settling in Orlando, Florida; Lauryn Taylor, a 21-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama who heard about the opportunity from a friend who works inside the music industry; Kelsey, a Chicago, Illinois native with a degree in music education; Carmen, a singer/dancer who grew up in the Nashville area and attended famed Belmont University and the youngest member of the group, Lindsey, a pastorís kid who hails from Jacksonville, Florida.

    John: You ladies are new to the scene. Five of you - put together. Was this kind of a competition thing that you guys were part of, or did you all grow up going to kindergarten together?

    Lauryn: No, we actually didn't know each other. This was an audition process. They kind of found us, I guess.

    Carmen: We were all working on solo careers before. About a year ago there was an audition call for a girl group through Patton House Entertainment, and we all sent in audition videos, and the top 15 girls came to Nashville and did an audition week where there were solo auditions, dance auditions and group auditions. There was a recording day and they narrowed it down to eight and then five, and here we are!

    John: Did you know that it was going to be five?

    Carmen: We had no idea who or what. It kept it interesting for sure. They made us work hard.

    John: You were scared during that experience?

    Carmen: Yes, it was very nerve racking. We got there and none of us are really used to being close with a lot of girls. You came to the process of you're staying with all these girls in this apartment and everyone's beautiful and talented and loves the Lord. It was very intimidating, but everyone was rooting for each other, I’d say. It was a really good experience.

    Kelsey: It was a positive environment, for sure.

    Kayli: I was surprised because I was expecting, you know, it was a competition, so girls are going to seclude themselves or be mean, but everyone was so nice. It was such a great experience.

    John: That's cool. We probably should have done this at the beginning, but let's go around and we'll say names and where we're from and who our biggest influences are.

    Lindsey: Oh, start with me. My name is Lindsey. I'm 20 years old. I'm the youngest. I'm from Jacksonville, Florida. A big influence in my life has always been Amy Grant and Jump 5.

    John: Oh, yeah.

    Lauryn: I'm Lauryn Taylor, and I'm from Birmingham, Alabama. I'm 21. My biggest influence just in life is my mom because we are like the same head on two bodies. I've learned so much from her, and she's my best friend.

    Carmen: I'm Carmen. I'm from Nashville, Tennessee. Musical influences growing up… I listened to a lot of Point of Grace. That was kind of what I was raised on. Vocally, Kelly Clarkson is my girl.

    John: A little soul.

    Carmen: Yes, I kind of learned a lot from her.

    Kayli: I'm Kayli, and I'm from Orlando. My influence in my life would be my sister. Musical influence would be Mariah and Whitney and all the powerhouse vocals.

    Kelsey: My name is Kelsey. I'm from Chicago, Illinois. I'm 23. Probably my biggest life coach would also be my mom and my grandma. Wonderful influences in my life. Probably musically I would have to say Rachel Lampa. I've always been such a super fan of her, growing up listening to her and trying to sing her stuff. I can't do it, but I still try.

    John: Have you guys ever met any of the artists? Have you met Jump Five or Amy?

    Lindsey: I met Amy and about passed out. I wasn't expecting it. I was going in for a write and she was, there was the guy I was writing with in the building and she was writing with someone else in the building, and she was leaving as I was coming in. I wanted to say so much that nothing got out. It just ended up being uh, uh, you're, you're, and I just started getting giggly and weird. She was just like, "I'm Amy Grant." Then she just hugged me. It was just awful. There was so much that I wanted to say, but I was so star struck that I couldn't say it.

    John: That's awesome. How about you guys? Have you ever met Kelly Clarkson?

    Carmen: I would pass out if I met Kelly Clarkson. I would be like Lindsey.

    Lauryn: This girl is her number one fan right here.

    Carmen: Seriously, I'm the number one fan. We got to actually meet Point of Grace though through the audition process. They came in one day and did a morning session devotional with us, which was really cool. I teared up. I was crying.

    Lauryn: They gave us a lot of advice on how to just live together, be together and how to make it work.

    Kelsey: We grew up listening to them. We were really honored to meet them.

    John: That's cool. Have you ever met Rachel?

    Kelsey: No, but one of her really good friends did our makeup for a couple different shoots. She's always posting pictures of she and Rachel, and I'm always like if I could just squeeze in there for one picture. I'm hoping to meet her though.

    John: What would you say to someone who is 13 or 15 that kind of has that star struck look that either looks at somebody that has either been in our industry for a long time like Amy or the POG girls or looks at you guys and says, "That's what I want to do?"

    Kelsey: I would say you can never dream too big. I think for me, being an artist and being a singer and being on the road was always something that was so not attainable. It was such a far-fetched goal for me. Always something I wanted, but never something within reach I always felt like. God is a God that makes dreams come true. If they're aligned with His will, then I think that there is never a dream that's too far to reach. That would be my encouragement to that 13-year-old aspiring artist: that you never know what God can do if you're just willing. If you're willing and ready to take a step of faith.

    Lauryn: Mine would be to always seek God's will first, because no matter what, He knows what's best. Like Kelsey, I was always shy growing up. I never thought that I would actually be able to get up on stage, but God just continued to open doors and I would walk through in faith. It led me here.

    John: With the record coming out later this summer, what other big things are you guys looking forward to for 2013?

    Lindsey: We're looking forward to a tour called Secret Keeper Girls, which will be all over the country. We're really, really excited to be a part of that and partner with them.

    John: That's with?

    Lindsey: Bob and Dannah Gresh, yes. We're doing that and ...

    Carmen: That's actually a big part. We'll be on the road nonstop with them.

    Kelsey: We're also looking forward to our single being out. It just released and we're super excited.

    Lindsey: I'm really excited just about—back to the tour—I'm really excited about the hands-on ministry we get to do in the tour. We get to really work face-to-face with a lot of little girls. We're privileged to be able to do the altar calls and one-on-one time with girls, and then to do a little bit of worship and, of course, some of our songs. We're really excited to be all hands in and really just do this whole ministry thing. That's a big part of all our hearts. We grew up leading worship in different churches. I think it's going to be really cool to get to do everything that we feel like God has given us a heart for in this tour.

    Kayli: We're excited to share our stories. We all have very different stories and love to hear everyone's stories. That's where it opens up for us.

    Lauryn: Through that, we're all so different that I feel like the girls in the audience can at least relate to one of us and one of our stories.

    John: I'm sure that will take place.

    Carmen: This is a unique tour, I think, touching on what Lindsey said. We do get to be all hands on deck. We get to be part of the set up, the tear down, and learning how to serve is going to be a cool thing for us. We've all grown up in the church serving and doing ministry, but I think that what we do as 1 Girl Nation, such a small part of it is performing and the rest of it is sharing our hearts and being able to connect with girls on a deeper level than that, so that what they see on the stage is the same as what they see off the stage. The conversations that we have and the difference we get to make in their lives through conversation through just relating our stories to theirs is going to be the biggest thing that we take away from that. That's super exciting for me, and I know for all of us.

    Lauryn: I think they're going to teach us a lot more than what we think. I'm really excited to figure out what we learn from them.

    Kayli: We think we're ready.

    John: How would you guys describe your music?

    Carmen: I would say Toby Mac meets One Direction. It's that group feel, but girls. It's very current sounding, but with a great message.

    Kayli: Top 40 sound with a very bold Christian message.

    Lauryn: I really feel like it's kind of funny… the sound is kind of like that, but we're kind of our own thing. I don't think we could really even be compared to anything secular. We've kind of just gone with what each one of our hearts is. Our voices are all completely different. They're completely distinct, and it's really cool to see how God can take five different voices and make it work into one project. We're really hoping that will be a big part of our message too, that, look what five completely different people can do together.

    John: That does stand as a testimony. Who produced the record?

    Lauryn: We had actually a group of teams. We had Jason Ingram, Casey Brown and John Smith. That was one group. Another one was John White from Capital Kings. Then we had Josh Silverberg and Kip Williams.

    John: Awesome.

    Lauryn: Great minds.

    John: Each of them have their own kind of unique talents as well in various styles of music.

    Lindsey: It's a good amount of different kind of flavors and spices all throughout the album.

    John: Yeah, I would assume. Did those guys stretch you, or did you walk in and it was very comfortable?

    Carmen: We started out with a worship song. I think the best way to unite a room of people or a group of people is to just worship together. I really think that's something that's always helped connect hearts. We were just singing and worshipping, and I think that was a really good start for us. We'd always start in prayer so there was kind of a peace. Whenever we're in the studio and we're singing and they're like, “No, go again. You can do better.” I felt like it was a sport.

    Kelsey: We learned so much from them. We recorded the album in nine days start-to-finish. The days in the studio were long and exhausting, but I think what we learned and experienced in that short time was a lifetime's worth.

    Lauryn: I wanted it to last longer.

    Kayli: We made it fun. We brought strobe lights and candy. Every time a song was finished, we'd turn on the strobe lights and eat candy and just dance to it.

    Carmen: We wanted to make it a party every time.

    John: That's cool. One last question here. Well, maybe a few more. We'll see. What has God been teaching you guys either collectively or individually as of late?

    Lauryn: I can talk about this. I think for me God's been teaching me that it doesn't matter what your past looks like. It doesn't matter the things that you've been through. It doesn't matter the mistakes that you've made. God sees who He has created you to be. The things of the past, the mistakes that you've made, the sometimes dark paths that you've walked down do not define who you are. Your identity is found in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. For me that's been such a, it's a hard pill to swallow sometimes when you think about how did I get here? Why did God choose me for this incredible ministry. I'm not worthy. I'm not adequate. I'm not equipped for this ministry.

    The beauty of that is that God uses broken people and God uses imperfect people and that's kind of overwhelming to me. I think that what I've been learning the most and taking away the most lately is that I am valuable. I'm loved. I'm treasured by Christ. That's pretty overwhelming day-to-day for me. That's something that I have to tell myself every day, remind myself every single day that“God loves you. Here's who you are in him. Here's who he has created you to be.” I think that probably everybody at some point of time in their life needs to get back to that place. It's not about me. It's not about what I've done. It's not about who I was in the past. It's about who I am now and the direction that I'm heading now and the person that God is creating me to be now.

    John: What an important message. Timely for so many people today, especially young girls. Anybody else?

    Carmen: I've just been humbled. I tell the girls a lot that I thought I had this great plan for my life and great goals for myself, and then God walks in and completely goes, "I have something even better." I'm like, what? Not selling myself short in just being humbled completely. Every day I thought I was so great, and it turns out I'm not at all. That's what I'm learning.

    Lindsey: I think God has been teaching me, I grew up as a pastor's kid and was really hands-on in the church, and I think in my life there's been a lot of good that has come out of that because it's been such good accountability. God has taught me what it's like to work and to do things for him and stuff like that. I have such a heart for worship. That's just a big part of what my family has taught me.

    Another side of that is that when you're under the spotlight and you're always a leader--at 12 I was leading worship and running the kids' ministry--there's so many things I had to do because whenever your dad is planting a church or starting one, your family is, we are the staff, you know? I found myself kind of losing who I am and losing that I can't struggle anymore and I can't look like I have something wrong. When I hit the doors into the church I've got to look like I've got it all together because people are depending on me, and you know that pressure. Through that I feel like I was the most miserable person and I felt like I was lost.

    I found myself writing songs. Looking back now, I found myself writing songs to people that are struggles I was going through to other people. It was things that I was dealing with and things that I couldn't come face to face with anymore. Through this whole girl group thing and stepping out of that and meeting these girls for the first time, I felt like I have accountability of my own. God has really taught me just to be real with Him, and that whenever I'm real with who I really am and what I'm really struggling with, that's when I can be free. That's when He can show me new things and show me who He is and what His love really looks like to the fullest. That's been a really cool thing for me. It's been recent and it's not easy.

    Sometimes it's easy, especially in this industry, to walk in and put that face on and go back to who I was and what I need to look like. Every time I do that, I don't see God work near as much as whenever I'm vulnerable and whenever I'm open with what I'm struggling with too. It's been a really good lesson and it's really changed who I am.

    Lauryn: We've just been challenged lately on so many levels.

    Carmen: I keep calling it a crash course. God is putting us through the fire so he keeps refining us, refining us, refining us.

    John: Alright, I said that was the last question, but I have one more. Black coffee or fru-fru coffee?

    Kayli: If it doesn't taste like cake, I don't like it.

    Lauryn: I'm not that bad. I'm a happy medium.

    Kayli: If I want it to work, I'll drink black. When I go to Starbucks, I ask for extra caramel on the caramel macchiato. I'm like just pound it in there. That can be half the cup. I don't care.

    1 Girl Nation wants to encourage and inspire its audience, but ultimately they want to lead them to the source of all power. "The whole point of everything that we do is to bring more people into the Kingdom of Christ," says Kayli. "We were given these talents, abilities, tools, opportunities and platforms to get people to know the name of Jesus and that's the only reason why we do what we do. It's a fun life and we get to play out our dreams because of the talent God has given us, but it all goes back to Him."

    To find out more about 1 Girl Nation, click here. To hear their single, click here.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Capital Kings, Amy Grant, Dannah Gresh, Rachel Lampa, 1 Girl Nation, Jump 5, Point of Grace

  • John MacArthur's Call to the Church - Beware of Strange Fire

    Posted on August 7, 2013 by John van der Veen

    John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.

    In 1969, after graduating from Talbot Theological Seminary, John came to Grace Community Church. The emphasis of his pulpit ministry is the careful study and verse-by-verse exposition of the Bible, with special attention devoted to the historical and grammatical background behind each passage. Under John’s leadership, Grace Community Church's two morning worship services fill the 3,500-seat auditorium to capacity. Several thousand members participate every week in dozens of fellowship groups and training programs, most led by lay leaders and each dedicated to equipping members for ministry on local, national, and international levels.

    John and his wife, Patricia, live in Southern California and have four adult children: Matt, Marcy, Mark, and Melinda. They also enjoy the enthusiastic company of their fifteen grandchildren.

    John is type of author that evokes emotion in the reader. Some try to avoid his books and others can't stop reading them. His prayer would be that emotion would drive one to a specific place - the foot of the cross. Or, simply put, the Gospel of Jesus.

    In his new book, Strange Fire, John lays out a call for the Church to repent of it's "casual" approach to worship. After reading Strange Fire, one can understand that worship is a serious matter. God is to be enjoyed for sure, but in the direction that He gives.

    In our recent conversation, I asked Dr. MacArthur about his new book and what I found is a man still living under conviction. While in his mid 70's, there is a fire that burns in this man. Strange it is not. For it's a passion for the glory of God.

    John, I am curious, when you set out to write a book, who do you write your books for? Are you writing for a particular group of people? Are you writing for your church? Or are you just writing for the evangelical community altogether?

    John M.: Yeah, primarily, I'm writing for the broader evangelical community; in particular, the pastors and leaders and influencers. When I write a book, particularly a political or issue-oriented book, I do that for the benefit of the church: to make a truth clear to the church, to warn the church. So the audience is typically the broader evangelical community with a focus on those in leadership to help them understand the issues and the impact that they're having on the church.

    John: So, would you say that you're writing in response to something that's happening in church culture, or are you kind of thinking, "Hey, maybe this is what could be happening in church culture, so it needs to be addressed…"?

    John M.: You know more often than not, John, I react. I look at my books, or many of them anyway, as kind of a correction, a clarification, some discernment applied to an issue in the church that the church needs to be aware of. That might be more frequently my motivation but not exclusively. There are times when I think the church just needs clarity on a doctrine or an issue, and so I’ll write more from a positive affirmation side. That would be the lesser of the common motive, though, as usually I'm looking at the church feeling concerned about the direction, the lack of understanding or the church's exposure to something that is dangerous--something the church needs to understand more clearly to fulfill its ministry. So, I'm usually coming off of something that I think needs clarity or needs correction.

    John: Before we jump into your new book, "Strange Fire," I'm curious, John, have you ever written anything that you wish you would not have written? Have you ever changed a viewpoint on something that you would have liked to go back and refute?

    John M.: I would say no. I've never written anything that I would like to get back. I think the Lord really prepared me through my training and upbringing with a sound framework of theology so I kind of have the borders pretty much in mind for the truth and sound doctrine. Obviously, I've understood things in a clearer way. There are certain verses I would interpret differently now. There are some details maybe in handling the word of God that I might express differently. There's been a lot of refinement and a lot more clarification, but there's really nothing through the years that I would say would reach the level of "I wish I'd never written that."

    John: So, you have a new book coming out called, "Strange Fire.” I am curious, is this a follow-up to "Charismatic Chaos"?

    John M.: It is definitely in the same category and the same genre. It is addressing the charismatic movement, but it isn't that book. It isn't like that book, "Charismatic Chaos," which by the way is still in print--I just received the final word on the publication of that book in Chinese. So that book has been consistently in print since it first came out. But it addresses the same movement; only it addresses that movement in its current form. The "Charismatic Chaos" book is ... I don't know how many years old, but it's 15 years old or more, and the movement has morphed and changed and gained momentum on a global level. So while the same issue is addressed, which is the charismatic movement, this is a completely independent book that has nothing to do with the prior book. This one addresses the movement in a way that is consistent with its present form and, of course, since the time that I wrote that book, the prosperity gospel has just gone like a wildfire and so that's an element, and there are other elements as well that have changed.

    John: "Charismatic Chaos" was and is a fantastic book, and I have recommended it many times to many of my friends and I'm sure you have seen many comments by people who are being challenged by it. So hopefully we will see the same thing with "Strange Fire" as well.

    John M.: I will say this John, the book through the years has had an amazing ministry in helping people come out of that movement, and I would say that is the manifest impact of that book, letters upon letters, tens of thousands of them through the years coming to our ministry, the people in multiple languages reading that book, and coming out of that movement. This book is directed more at the leaders of that movement, the purveyors of that system, false miracles, false prosperity gospel, misrepresentation of gifts and all of that kind of stuff. This book really goes at the leadership and exposes the movement at that level, as well as its aberrations on a popular level. So, I'm praying that it will be an indictment whereas the "Charismatic Chaos" book was not so much an indictment of the leadership, but that it will also at the same help people to come out of that movement to the truth.

    John: You start "Strange Fire" with a story, the fantastic story of Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron. They are both priests, as you know, part of Israel. They, as you clearly point out, understood the teachings of God, were highly regarded, etc., and then the unbelievable happened, they went within this context of worship for them to present a, in a sense, sacrifice to God, and they did it in a wrong manner. God responded by sending fire and consumed both of them, both of these brothers. My question John is, do you think to some extent, the greater evangelical community, or at least maybe the charismatic community is in danger of doing the same thing?

    John M.: I think the charismatic community does the same thing. I think it offers strange fire, that's the point I make. In the ninth chapter in that same context, an offering was given to God appropriately and rightly, and God burned up the offering, and immediately after that, the offering was made inappropriately and God burned up the offers, and what that does tell us is that God feels very strongly, even judgmentally, against false worship. That is, worship which dishonors him; and I think the charismatic movement is filled with that.

    Now, I understand, we're not living in Old Testament times. God doesn't open up the ground and swallow up false prophets. God doesn't send a bear out of the woods to shred young men who mock a prophet. Obviously, God doesn't bring judgment the way he brought judgment in the Old Testament era; but he has the same attitude, and while judgment may not come in a temporal way, it will come, because God feels exactly the same about unacceptable worship. In fact, if you go back to the Ten Commandments, the first commandment and the second commandment are about no other God and how we come to God, how we approach God. The Old Testament is clear that we are to fear God and that we are to worship Him in a way that is consistent with His decree and His will and His commands.

    So, I just think--and it's a sad thing--that these charismatic churches and charismatic groups are full of people who do not understand that they can't play fast and loose with this kind of supposed worship. They can't say the Holy Spirit is doing something He's not doing, or saying something He's not saying. They can't ascribe to God fake miracles or fake revelations and make up things and say that God said them and the Holy Spirit said them.

    This is the most serious kind of conduct, negatively speaking, that any human being can commit. It is to blaspheme God, it’s an affront to God. I say in the introduction of the book that Jesus said the leaders of Israel had attributed the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and I draw a parallel, kind of an inverse parallel, that the modern charismatic movement attributes the works of Satan to the Holy Spirit. There are so many things that are obviously not of God at all that are being attributed to the Holy Spirit. This is very, very serious, and that's why the book doesn't hold back because the seriousness of dishonoring approaches to God demands a serious confrontation.

    John: So my mind goes in a couple of different directions here and there based on what you just said. Is God adhering to His forbearance then, as He approaches the Christian community, the charismatic community?

    John M.: Well, first of all, yeah, we have to understand that God is always forbearing, and He doesn't give us what we deserve when we deserve it. We are all alive because of His grace, and God by nature as Savior, even temporally, He withholds his judgment, He is merciful, He is gracious. I think many of these people aren't Christians, they're false teachers, false prophets, charlatans and frauds, and many of the people that follow them are nonbelievers who are deceived and duped, and certainly the Lord withholds judgment on them. Obviously, their judgment is the judgment of eternal condemnation when it does come.

    But even among believers, you know, there are many sins that believers can commit and do commit, and there are many unfaithful believers who don't have the ground open up and swallow them or who aren't struck down by God, although that can happen because we know from the New Testament, there is a sin of the death and there can be a sin in the life of the believer that will cause the Lord to take him home.

    But I think that's correct; I think God is patient even toward his own, and that's one of the functions of pastors. Paul, you remember, said to the church in Acts 20, "I have not ceased for three years to warn you with tears and to warn you that of your own selves perverse men will rise up, will lead you astray and from the outside wolves will come in with deceptive teaching." Paul writes his letters to churches and continually talks about error, and he said to the Galatians, "Having begun in the Spirit, are you perfected in the flesh? Please don't fall into legalism." All of those epistles have warning sections. Thessalonians, you know, warns about misunderstanding the second coming and believing lies. That's just part of ministry.

    So, we would say that while the Lord is forbearing with His own people who truly belong to him, it is the role and duty of pastors and leaders of the church to expose the false teachers, to expose the false doctrine and to preach sound doctrine. In fact, you shouldn't even be a leader in the church unless you are capable of exposing error. According to Paul's standards for leadership, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, you have to be able to recognize error, expose it for error, and teach sound doctrine. That's part of being a leader in the church. It's not necessarily popular in this kind of environment where everybody calls for tolerance and acceptance. And nobody has screamed louder for that than the charismatics, because they have to have that in order to succeed. They have gotten what they wanted, but it's true that the Lord is patient, especially with His church. But that raises the importance of those who are leading His church to speak the truth and warn the people.

    John: In the book, you suggest a few questions to help test the authenticity of true works of the Spirit. You ask the readers to ask five questions. One, does it exalt the true Christ? Two, does it oppose worldliness? Three, does it point people to Scripture? Four, does it elevate the truth? And five, does it produce love for God and for others?

    Now, when I am reading those questions, my thought is, to some extent, we could have a pastor or a leader within the charismatic movement, being asked those questions on one side and John MacArthur being asked those questions on one side and both of them and looking at the acts of what's happening in the charismatic movement would answer those questions in the affirmative. Does it exalt the true Christ? They would answer yes. Does it oppose worldliness? They would say yes. How does someone within a Christian community approach then these two conflicting viewpoints and say, "Well, wait a second here, you both can't be right. I hear someone on TV telling me that what they're doing is truly of God, and yet I have MacArthur on one side telling me no, what they're doing is not of God, it's of the devil." How do we reconcile that, John?

    John M.: Those five questions basically came from Jonathan Edwards, and he was using those five things to evaluate the legitimacy or illegitimacy of certain things that were happening in the great awakening, and in every case it all depends on how you define the terms. If I ask the question, "Does it honor Christ?" the guy can say, "Of course, it honors Christ." A Mormon can say Mormonism honors Christ, A Jehovah's Witness can say Jehovah's Witness ministers honor Christ, but that begs a definition of Christ. Who is Christ? And what does honor Christ? That is the compelling issue.

    For example, when Kenneth Copeland says that Jesus on the cross became a sinner, died and went to hell, and was punished for three days, that's heresy. He may ask somebody, do charismatics honor Christ? Does Kenneth Copeland honor Christ? Sure, off the top of their head, they would say, “Yes,” but when you look more deeply, to say that Christ became a sinner and went to hell to pay for sin for three days and then God raised him, that does not honor Christ.

    So, all those questions then have to be defined. The terms in all those questions have to be defined. Before you can answer the question, "Does it honor Christ?" you have to show who Christ is, what Christ has done, and what the Bible says honors Christ, and then see if based upon the biblical definition of honoring Christ, they are honoring Christ; so in every case, a superficial answer, we expect that. We expect them to say, "Oh yeah, this demonstrates love for God, this demonstrates love for others." But upon closer examination, when you compare how the Bible defines those terms and what the charismatics do, it is not hard to answer the question.

    John: So, context defines the meaning here.

    John M.: Context and definition is everything. Sure, you could say to a Muslim, "Do you love God?" and he could say, "Yes," but he better talk about who you're talking about, what God you’re talking about and what you mean by love. So yeah, all those words beg for explanation, and in the book, those questions have a very carefully laid out biblical context in which they have to be answered.

    John: Yeah, they do, they do.

    John, the question was asked once of a TV preacher, "Why do amazing miracles like people being raise from the dead, blind eyes being opened, lame people walking again happen with greater frequency in places like Africa, and not here in the U.S.? So now I'm asking you John, would you agree with that statement, and then how would you answer that question?

    John M.: I would answer it by saying who said that and based on what evidence? I have absolutely never seen any legitimate evidence of anything like that going on anywhere in the world. People being raised from the dead claims, sure. People have made the claim that that has happened, that they have seen that happen, but there is literally no evidence, no genuine evidence for things like that. You have near-death situations where people come near to death and maybe are revived, we would all understand that, but nobody goes to a funeral and raises somebody out of the casket after they have been embalmed.

    So, you know, those kinds of claims are basically meaningless. They’re as meaningless as all of these claims about people going to heaven and seeing Jesus and seeing the Holy Spirit as a blue fog and Jesus riding a rainbow horse. That's why Paul said to the Corinthians, "I was caught up to the third heaven," but it's not profitable to talk about that, because it's not verifiable. They love the unverifiable. They love to make claims that no one can ever substantiate. People have done vast studies trying to track down the supposed miracles of well-known healers and all the evidence has come in through the years that there's just nothing there.

    John: What do you hope happens? I mean you kind of answered this at the beginning, but what do you hope happens as this book launches, as it goes out into the Christian community? Just what do you hope the response is going to be?

    John M.: First, I hope that those people who are sitting in these environments and know something is wrong but have been intimidated, that they have open minds and know this isn't right. That they know they're dying of cancer, they've got heart disease, they're going through a divorce, they're struggling with sin, they're not getting rich, and they're questioning why the guy at the top of the Ponzi scheme pile has a jet and two Mercedes and they can barely exist—or even can't exist. I hope those people who are full of anxiety and doubt will find reason to run and reason to flee the error and see and expose it for what it is.

    Secondly, I hope people will understand the danger of the influences that they're under. When Jesus was denouncing the Pharisees, he said they produce sons of hell. It’s an amazing indictment of those that the populous of Israel felt was representative of God, and what Jesus said is they don't produce sons of heaven, they produce sons of hell. I think it was more on Jesus' mind at the end of his ministry, in the final discussion he had before the cross with the disciples and the populous of Jerusalem that they flee from false teachers because they have such deadly influence. So, I hope people will see the corruption. If you start with Charles Parham from whom the movement came and see that he was arrested for sodomy and you just progress through the scandals of the movement, I hope it exposes the corruption that's at the top of the movement.

    The third thing that I would hope and pray for is that the movement would receive such a blow that it finds it difficult to recruit. And that's asking a lot because it's a big wide world and most of the Christian world doesn't even know I exist, but I would love to have this book slow down the growth and then obviously I would hope that even those that are fully convinced in the movement and fully convinced leaders in the movement, God might see fit to rescue them from it.

    John: We're going to jump off of topic of the book here. The tagline for "Grace to You" is Unleashing God's truth, One Verse at a Time. You have been a proponent for expository preaching, obviously for a long time. I'm curious, do you believe that's the only way to proclaim Scripture?

    John M.: Well, I believe initially the only way to proclaim anything from the Scripture is to interpret it correctly. So let's just say that however the sermon comes out, whether it's a theological sermon, or a sort of exhortational sermon, or an exposition of a given passage, or whether you're dealing with a biblical theme, the end product of what you preach has to come from rightly dividing the word of God. So, it's not that every sermon has to be a sort of word-by-word, verse-by-verse exposition, certainly as tight and as defined maybe as I would do it, but when you say this is what Scripture teaches, you can't truly say that unless you've rightly divided the truth.

    So, even when I preach, say, a message on a theological theme, a biblical theme, a doctrine of Scripture or give an overview, the message at the end of the day has to reflect the Scripture rightly interpreted. So, in that sense, all preaching has to be expositional. Sound theology is the product of accurate exposition. I prefer Bible exposition. I think it's the right way to preach because it's the only way that covers everything, and I don't think God simply gave us big ideas. I think He gave us truth down to the very smallest phrases and words, and if you're going to get the full richness of Scripture, that's the way you're going to get it.

    John: Do you think to some extent by avoiding expository preaching, it has allowed growth for the charismatic movement? I mean, do you think that's why to some extent everything that "Strange Fire," the reason why you wrote that book is because of the fact that expository preaching has not been held in high regard?

    John M.: If expository preaching dominated the church, and if that expository preaching was accurate interpretation of Scripture, the movement couldn't survive. That's absolutely correct. All false doctrine survives in an environment of ignorance or tolerance, and in evangelicalism in our day, you have a lot of ignorance, a lot of people who just think about church growth and whatever, and not about the truth in its detail. And you certainly have the personal kind of movement in Christianity, which conveys the idea, “What does the Bible mean to me?” and whatever I think it means and feel it means, and whatever the Lord shows me it means, that's what it means.

    So you not only have no exposition of Scripture based upon a scientific pattern, but you don't even have Hermeneutics, you don't even have rules for interpretation. If the Lord shows you what this means intuitively, like a pain in your stomach or a notion that pops into your head, now you've got an alien approach to Scripture. So, whether you have the Bible interpreted intuitively or interpreted personally or not interpreted at all, of course then anything and everything flourishes.

    Interested in reading John's new book? Click here for more information.


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Worship, John MacArthur, Kenneth Copeland

  • Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Posted on August 6, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America. 

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    John:               I’m reading a quote, and I’m not sure where this was, maybe on your promo sheet or something, but you said, “I recorded both the song ‘Overcomer’ and the album to fuel faith and empower people; to remind those facing a battle that all for the strength and power they need is readily available to them. We are all overcomers.”

    So, my question is, why do you think people struggle with not seeing that identity themselves?

    Mandisa:       Because we are natural people. We have a supernatural heritage, but we’re natural people. We tend to only see our circumstances and not look beyond our circumstances. I was reading in Judges 6-8, which is the story of Gideon, and it was fascinating to me. If you look at the snapshot of who Gideon was and Judges 6, and then if you look at the end in Judges 8, it’s almost like two completely different people. He was really kind of riddled with fear; I just think it was a stronghold of his. When the angel came to him and said, “Oh, mighty man of valor, the Lord is with you,” Gideon’s initial response was, “Well, if the Lord is with me, then why is this happening?” That’s so typical of us, isn’t it? We hear that the Lord is with us but then we look at our circumstances and say it doesn’t feel like the Lord is with me. Once Gideon started to believe what God said about him, he started walking it out. It took him believing what the angel of the Lord was saying to him to make him really started walking as a mighty man of valor. It was a process.

    I’m convinced that when people start believing what God says about them, they’ll start walking it out. But God, He requires the faith at first. That’s why He says time and time again, “Believe Me, trust Me.” I love the man in the Gospel as He says, “I believe; help my unbelief.” God honors that prayer; it’s like, “Lord, I really want to believe and I believe you a little bit but help me in the areas where I don’t so much.” I think when we pray that, God says, “Okay, thank you for finally asking me.” Wham! “Here you go!” [laughs]

    John:               When somebody comes to you and says, “Yeah, but you have it all together.”

    Mandisa:       Ugh! Please. [laughs]

    John:               They may say, “I’m just a single mom raising three kids,” or “I’m a college student with the whole world ahead of me,” or whatever, and yet they can’t see anything going on in their lives spiritually. How do you say, look at Gideon or look at the man in the New Testament who said, “Help my unbelief”? What is your secret? Have you found a set of steps or something?

    Mandisa:       Totally. I say look at them and look at me. My last album was called What If We Were Real? That’s because God really sent me on a journey of taking the mask off. It was the mask that I would wear to try to tell the world that I’ve got it all together. He taught me to really let people see me as I truly am because I’ve found… I don’t know, I think so often in the Body of Christ we drive up to church, get in an argument with our family in the car, and then drive up and hit the church door and we’re like, “Hi. I’m blessed and highly favored.” We put on this veneer like I’ve got it all together and I actually think that God calls us to live more transparently, to live more vulnerably and to let our brothers and sisters in Christ see us as we really are. One, because in that way we can help one another know that we’re not alone; and two, it helps us to become more than what we are or were to start with.

    So, my last album was a process of coming to understand that, and I have just learned to be very transparent--almost to a fault on my social media sites. I posted earlier this week about a moment where I had to confess to somebody at a store—it’s a long story, you can read it on my Facebook [laughs] —I had to confess to somebody at the store that I lied to them and [groans] that is just never easy to do! But I did it because, well, the Lord told me to and he convicted me and the less you listen to the conviction of the Lord, the more you get numb to it. I just want to always follow the conviction and to repent when I need to and to receive God’s grace and forgiveness and to keep it moving.

    I just try to make it a point of letting the world know I do not have it all together.  I’m on this journey just like you are and let’s do this together, let’s learn from one another.

    At the same time, you have to recognize that you’re more than what you currently see. When God looks at us, He sees us as he created us. He sees us covered in the blood of Jesus, not as what we see when we look in the reflection in the mirror.

    John:               Is it scary sometimes when you get that vulnerable with people?

    Mandisa:       I think it used to be; it’s not so much anymore. It’s been a process, but I can thank Simon Cowell, in part, for that [laughs], for kind of putting me on blast, you know, on American Idol years ago. It helped me to not live hidden and not live hiding who I really am. Him making fun of my weight on national television put my weight story out there for the world to see, and that’s the main area where I was the most timid of letting people really see what was inside. So when Simon threw me out there, I was kind of forced out there, but it was a blessing in disguise because I feel like I’ve really learned a lot through it. I’ve helped several brothers and sisters along the same journey know that they’re not alone and that they—and I’m struggling just like they are—we have everything we need to fight and to come in victoriously.

    John:               Total sidebar, but do you still stay in contact with some of those people from those days?

    Mandisa:       The contestants I do.

    John:               Who won that year?

    Mandisa:       Taylor Hicks. He is in Las Vegas right now, and I know I’m a little bit biased, but I think that we had one of the more successful seasons. If you look at our Top 10, you’ve got Catherine McPhee on an NBC show, Kelly Pickler was just on Dancing with the Stars, and Chris Daughtry is a superstar. So many of the people on my season are doing really well, so that’s one of the great things about social media.  I can always tweet them and Facebook them and keep in touch with how they’re doing. Then when I get to their cities, I can look them up and say, “Hey, let’s go grab some coffee.” But no, I don’t hang out with Simon Cowell on a regular basis. [laughs again]

    John:               So let’s look at this: Each of your records seem to tell another chapter or story in your life; adding, maybe, another layer of who you are. When you put those songs together or create that album, are you thinking of Mandisa? Are you thinking of your personal friends… or your fan base? When you make a record, who’s that for?

    Mandisa:       I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question and I like it!

    My albums have been a journey of my life. True Beauty was first and that was coming right off of doing American Idol and really learning not to define myself by the standards of the world but by what God says about me. Freedom was when God started chipping away at the things in my life that I’ve been bound by, mainly my food addiction, and I began really letting Him teach me that true freedom is not the fact that I can eat these scones that are right behind me, but that true freedom is knowing that I don’t have to and knowing that I have the power to resist those scones and the chocolate cookies or whatever is tempting me.

    The third was What If We Were Real? That record was God chipping away at the layers and letting me show the world who I really am, and with this one, it was a combination of me looking at my life and how I’m overcoming not just the weight struggle, but also lots of other areas in my life.  I’m overcoming … I think for a long time I was very miserable being single. I call myself super-duper single because I think once you hit 30 you’re not just single, you’re super single. (Laughs)

    I’m just saying, once I hit 30. (laughter). I think I was so miserable in that for such a long time, and I feel like God has been helping me to overcome depending on a man to complete me. I believe that I’m called to be married; I believe that I’m going to meet my husband one day, but saying “I’m going to live my life right now and not just wait for the moment when I get married.” That’s a big overcomer story for me.So, I was thinking about myself in those areas and then I was thinking about some friends of mine. One in particular, whose name is Keisha, was diagnosed with breast cancer while she was pregnant and was undergoing chemo treatments while she was seven months pregnant. When I looked at her story, I went, “Wow! You were in the middle of this battle and had the greatest outlook!” I could just see how God was going to use this as a testimony. I was like, “Keisha, you’re an overcomer and we’ve not even seen the end of this battle.” For me, it’s about really studying the Word of God and coming to understand that an overcomer is somebody who has not even conquered their circumstances yet.

    The Bible describes an overcomer as, first of all, if you have the Holy Spirit inside of you, the Bible makes it really clear that those who believe that Jesus is Lord, are overcomers, because Jesus is an overcomer. Then, of course, in John 4:4, it says that the One who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world. So, it really isn’t about circumstances; it’s not about feeling like we’re an overcomer.  We’re an overcomer because God says that we are. Like I said earlier, once we believe that, I think that’s when we’ll start walking it out. But we have to believe it first.

    That’s what this album is, is it’s convincing both myself and my brothers and sisters in Christ to believe that you and I are overcomers. That we need to and can trust God, and that the One who is inside of you is greater than the one who is of the world. You can beat whatever it is that you’re going through, even though beating it may not look like we think it does. Keisha’s doing really well with her cancer. She’s had a double mastectomy and is still going through more treatments, but her baby was born perfectly healthy. We don’t know what the end is going to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s overcome this; she may overcome it by seeing Jesus face to face sooner rather than later. Or she may overcome it by God completely healing her, but what we know is that because Jesus lives in her, she’s an overcomer regardless of how we see the circumstances working out.

    John:               Is this record more personal for you?

    Mandisa:       I think all of my records have been personal.  This one is different in that where I am in my life is different than all of my other past albums. I just feel like I’m in a great place of contentment that I’ve never had before. I love being single now; there are many benefits. Let me tell them to you… (laughs)

    On Mother’s Day, I got a last minute flight to Charlotte where I got to support my friend Lisa who was speaking in her Church. She was speaking about something that was really difficult for her, and as I booked those flights with my miles, I was like, “If I was married and had kids, I probably couldn’t have hopped this flight at the last minute and gone to support her.” I can take my money and use it to benefit causes that are important to me. I can spend as much time in my bed as I want to and I get the whole bed to myself. I love my bed; I named my bed Rufus because I love it that much.

    I have the ability to do that without having to worry about somebody next to me pulling my covers, I love that. I think more importantly, I can spend as much time with the Lord as I want to. I can wake up on any given day, sit there in my bed, Rufus, and talk to the Lord all day long and study the Word and fellowship with my friends. You can’t really do that when you have different devotions to your children or to your husband.

    John:               It’s different.

    Mandisa:       It’s a different kind of a calling, but for right now I’m just appreciating that I have those things. So, yeah, in one area, that’s important, and I have a song, “I’m Praying for You” that I wrote with Chris August. That is a song to my future husband—who is not Chris August, by the way. (laughs) Let me just make that clear!

    So, I long for that day, but I’m not putting my life on hold. And I’ve got a lot of great workout songs on this album, just because that’s been important to me in the last few years. More than anything, there’s a lot of worship songs this time around because I’m just so loving the Lord and just so thankful for so much that that came out in my music. I’ve got a lot of songs that are like, “God you don’t have to do another thing, I just want to worship you because you’re that good.”

    Yeah, it’s different from my other albums. I think a lot of my other albums were more like, “Lord, when?” and “Help me,” and “I can’t get through this!” So now this one is a little bit more like, “Thank you, Jesus! I know that I can get through this!”

    John:               “Dear John”… Can you tell us about that song?

    Mandisa:       Oh, gosh! Do you have Kleenex ready? (laughter)

    John:               We can get some. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

    Mandisa:       No, I’m happy to talk about it. Although I’ve never been able to talk about it without crying.

    John is my brother. He is not a Christian, and I really want him to be. And the reason I want him to be is not because I want him to live a life of rules and regulations. It’s because I know the abundant life that I have from a relationship with Jesus, and I simply want him to have that same abundant life. We’ve talked many times about faith. But right now he’s enjoying his party lifestyle, and he sees a lot of hypocrites—people who say they believe one thing and then their lives reflect another. So I think that’s just kind of been a way that the enemy has blinded his eyes. I pray for him on a regular basis and I have a lot of people praying for him. All of my Facebook and Twitter people know. Natalie Grant is a great friend of mine, and she has an alarm that goes off at nine o’clock every single day to remind her to pray for John. Here I go with the tears… (laughs)

    So, I played “Dear John” for him on Fourth of July weekend. It was the first time he heard it, and his response was, “You know, that’s a great song, Disa.” And, of course, my response that I wanted was, “What must I do to be saved?” and I know that that day is going to happen; it just hasn’t happened yet.

    So “Dear John” is a song that I wrote, if I were to write a letter about my desire for him to live that abundant life in Jesus and then if I were to put that letter to music, that’s what “Dear John” would be. I am praying first for his salvation, and hoping that as he listens to that song, he would put it on repeat without even knowing why, that he just keeps playing it and calls me up and says, “Okay, I’m ready.” Secondly, I’m also praying for every unbeliever who listens to it.  I just … I’m asking God to flood them with grace and forgiveness. I think so often people think that it is about, I don’t know, a list or something of things that you have to do. My brother’s enjoying partying and he likes going to bars and he likes women, and I just think that he probably has some shame there, but he’s just kind of enjoying that. But if I could just convince him, you don’t know what you’re missing! Jesus is literally the best thing that’s ever happened to me and what you think you’re getting from these bars and alcohol and women, it does not even come close to the joy and the freedom and the satisfaction you get from a life with Jesus.

    So I’m praying that for him and I’m praying for every unbeliever as they listen to it that they’ll just receive a flood of forgiveness and grace. Third, I’m also praying for my brothers and sisters in Christ who have loved ones in their lives who don’t know the Lord, that God would just rise up like faith to talk to them, to maybe write their own Dear John letter and say “Hey, one of my favorite artists, Mandisa, has this song that I really want you to listen to,” (laughter) but before you listen, let me tell you about what Jesus means to me.

    I don’t know, I can just imagine people sending a letter with that song and then their loved one calling them and saying, “Okay, I recognize that you want this for me because you love me, so let’s talk about it.” I’m just praying that God opens up doors for conversations about Jesus to be had through this song.

    John:               Very good. Okay, so let’s see. We’ll kind of change gears a little bit. So talk about the record. Any new guest vocals?

    Mandisa:       Yeah, lots of guest vocals.

    John:               Is Chris on it as well?

    Mandisa:       He is, yes. I wrote with Matthew West. We wrote a song called “The Distance.”

    John:               Okay.

    Mandisa:       I wrote with Plumb, we actually wrote “Dear John” together.

    John:               Does that mean that Matthew is then singing with you?

    Mandisa:       Matthew was doing the background on “The Distance.”

    John:               Okay.

    Mandisa:       I wrote “Dear John” with Plumb, she’s singing background on that. I wrote “Praying for You” with Chris, he’s singing background on that. Then, there are a few people who aren’t singing on the album, but we wrote with… Israel Houghton on a song called “At All Times.” He lives in Houston, so we didn’t get those vocals. Then Cindy Morgan and Britt Nicole wrote a song that I did not write on called “Where You Begin,” and they’re not singing on it but they wrote that song.

    So, yeah, lots of guest appearances on this album and they’re not only some of my friends, but they’re also some of my favorite artists. So it’s just been neat to be able to come together on these.

    John:               That’s great! That’s cool.

    Are you a book reader? You are a book reader; what are you reading right now?  That’s okay if you mention like three or four.

    Mandisa:       Okay. I’m reading Captivating by John and Stacy Eldredge, just because as a single woman that’s a great book for me to have. I’m also reading through The 5 Love Languages because there’s kind of a new relationship in my life. I don’t know where it’s going to go but, shhh. (laughter)

    John:               And it’s not Chris August.

    Mandisa:       It’s not Chris August.

    Female:         He didn’t hear that part. (laughter)

    Mandisa:       I think it just kind of helps to know how people are wired. I’m really into my friend Tam here; she does radio at Capitol with me and we’ve been talking all day long about personalities and how different kinds of people communicate with one another. I’m just into stuff like that. So I’m reading The 5 Love Languages, as I mentioned, and I’m realizing what my love languages are and are not. I think it will really help me to be able to show love to whomever I marry; but not just in a potential marital relationship, but with friends and family and coworkers too. So I’m reading that. Then, I’m also reading through the Bible; my Church is reading through the Bible, the Scriptures both in the Old and New Testament, and I’m using the voice translation, which I absolutely love.

    Those three things I’m reading right now.

    John:               You are an author as well.

    Mandisa:       I’m working on a new one [book].

    John:               Really? Wow! When does that come out?

    Mandisa:       We’re just in the process; we’re meeting with publishers now. I have my preference, but we want to do an overcomer book. We want to do an overcomer book where people would compile a bunch of overcomer stories because I’m just convinced that when people tell their story in their testimonies, it helps them because the Bible says that we overcome by the word of our testimony. But it also helps people to hear it so I want to hear people tell their stories of how they overcame cancer because when people are going through cancer to read something like that, fuels their faith. So I want to compile these powerful stories about people in the middle of their battles, and also at the end of the battle. So, we’ll see.

    John:               What kind of music to you listen to now?

    Mandisa:       I’m a big CCM fan; the thing I love about CCM music, which stands for Contemporary Christian Music for those who don’t know, is that it comes in every style. You’ve got Christian Hip Hop and Rap and Country and Rock and Polka, probably! I don’t know. (laughter) I love that you can get all these styles, but the thing I love most about Christian music is that it’s not just something that makes you feel good, that makes you want to get up and dance, there’s a purpose and a meaning to it, and it helps you connect with the Lord. I love worship artists. My favorite worship artists are Israel Houghton and Jesus Culture, Meredith Andrews. I love the more current, more pop, hip hop styles. Capitol Kings I’m loving now. Then more pop artists like Britt Nicole and Natalie Grant. I don’t know; I love it all! If you look at my iPod, you’ll see a little bit of everything, but it’s pretty much all Christian music.

    John:               Last question, because we’re going to end here at three o’clock.

    Female:         Okay, we can leave a few minutes late too, because we came so late.

    John:               Well … What are you most excited about in 2013 besides Overcomer coming out?

    Mandisa;       I think the Hits Deep tour. We did it last year. It is tobyMac’s tour. He brings out a bunch of artists that are all my favorites. Last year it was Britt Nicole and Group 1 Crew were on it, but Britt and Blanca from Group 1 Crew are in baby mode right now, so they’re not on it this year. But we’ve added Colton Dixon who was on American Idol as well and is my label mate, and Capitol Kings who I just mentioned. I love them, they’re just really current. Then the people who were on it last year as well, like Brandon Heath, Jamie Grace and Chris August and Toby and myself. I cannot wait; it’s literally all of my favorite artists in one night.

    John:               Is that this fall?

    Mandisa:       It is. It starts in November and goes through December. Then in October I’m doing some more shows with Brandon Heath. We’ve been touring all year together; we did a 3-in-1 tour with Laura Story, and then we did a few shows called the Brandisa tour (laughs), because there was a rumor that he and I were dating so we just sort of embraced the name Brandisa. We are not, we are not dating.

    John:               Who started that rumor?

    Mandisa:       He did. (laughs)

    John:               Oh, he did?  (laughter)

    Mandisa:       He went on a national radio station and said that we’re dating. I was like, “Brandon, look, I know it’s all kind of fun and games, but as a single woman you are messing up my game by telling the world that we are dating!” (laughter)

    So we set the record straight. There’s a video on YouTube of him clarifying that we’re not dating. But, yeah, we’ve been touring together all year long.

    John:               So we need to pray for a husband for Mandisa, and for her brother.

    Mandisa:       You can pray for continued contentment for Mandisa and then the  husband will come whenever God is good and ready. (Laughs)

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Britt Nicole, Matthew West, Brandon Heath, Jesus Culture, Group 1 Crew, Chris August, Israel Houghton, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Colton Dixon, Meredith Andrews, Jamie Grace, Plumb, Natalie Grant, John Eldridge, Stasi Eldridge, Gary Chapman

  • One On One with Mark Batterson

    Posted on August 1, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Mark Batterson serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C. Recognized as “one of America’s 25 most innovative churches,” NCC is one church with seven locations. Mark’s blog and webcast also reach a virtual congregation around the world. He is the author of several bestselling books, including New York Times Bestseller - The Circle Maker and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. Mark holds a doctorate degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with this wife, Lora, and their three children.

    His new book, All In: You Are One Decision Away from a Totally Different Life is available now.  His publisher has this to say about it: "The Gospel costs nothing. You can't earn it or buy it. It can only be received as a free gift compliments of God's grace. It doesn't cost anything, but it demands everything. It demands that we go 'all in,' a term that simply means placing all that you have into God's hands. Pushing it all in. And that's where we get stuck---spiritual no man's land. We're afraid that if we go all in that we might miss out on what this life has to offer. It's not true. The only thing you'll miss out on is everything God has to offer. And the good news is this: if you don't hold out on God, God won't hold out on you. Readers will find Batterson's writing filled with his customary vivid, contemporary illustrations as well as biblical characters like Shamgar and Elisha and Jonathan and . . . Judas. No one has ever sacrificed anything for God. If you always get back more than you gave up, have you sacrificed anything at all? The eternal reward always outweighs the temporal sacrifice. At the end of the day, our greatest regret will be whatever we didn't give back to God. What we didn't push back across the table to Him. Eternity will reveal that holding out is losing out. The message of All In is simple: if Jesus is not Lord of all then Jesus is not Lord at all. It's all or nothing. It's now or never. Kneeling at the foot of cross of Christ and surrendering to His Lordship is a radical act of dethroning yourself and enthroning Christ as King. It's also an act of disowning yourself. Nothing belongs to you. Not even you. Batterson writes, for many years, I thought I was following Jesus. I wasn't. I had invited Jesus to follow me. I call it inverted Christianity. And it's a subtle form of selfishness that masquerades as spirituality. That's when I sold out and bought in. When did we start believing that the gospel is an insurance plan? It's a daring plan. Jesus did not die just to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous.'"

    That sparked our curiosity, so we emailed Mark to share with us about life.

    1. In your book The Circle Maker, you encouraged believers to pray "big" prayers to God. What is your goal with your new book, All In?

    The Circle Maker was all about the power of a single prayer. One prayer can change anything, change everything. But you can't just pray like it depends on God. You also have to work like it depends on you. You can't just draw the circle. You also have to draw a line in the sand. The most promising thought in All In is this: you are one decision away from a totally different life. I absolutely believe that. All In challenges readers to identify the one decision that will make the biggest difference in their lives. Of course, I believe that starts with the decision to go all in with God. I think many people think they are following Jesus, but the reality is that they've invited Jesus to follow them. They have inverted the gospel. But the true adventure begins when you completely surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If Jesus is not Lord of all, then you cannot claim Him as Lord at all. It's all or nothing.

    2. What is it like being a pastor in one of the US's most dangerous cities?

    Washington, DC is a tale of two cities. We live less than a mile from the Capitol Building--the symbol of freedom and power. But one mile in the other direction are some crime-ridden communities in desperate need of God's love. We'll actually open a Dream Center in one of those neighborhoods in the next year. We want to show the love of Jesus in practical ways. We feel like the needs around us give us an opportunity to put Matthew 25 into practice--feed the hungry, clothe the poor, house the homeless, adopt the fatherless.

    3. Earlier this year, your church hosted a conference called "City Fathers." Can you tell us a bit about it?

    We live in a culture that celebrates fifteen minutes of fame. I think it's high time we celebrate a lifetime of faithfulness. So we invited five pastors, City Fathers, to share their heart and vision for our city.

    Between the five of them, they had 167 years of pastoral ministry in DC.

    Honestly, the rest of us are reaping the seeds they sowed. I just felt like we needed to sit at their feet for a day and glean wisdom. We also needed to give honor where honor is due! That's what we did. It was a historic day for DC. It didn't just foster unity. It's created synergy.

    4. What is it about the corn-hole game that you love so much?

    When I was a kid, I spent about two hours a day trying to shoot a basketball hoop through the basket. Now that I can't jump like I used to, I guess corn-hole is the old man's version! It stokes the competitive fires. Consider this an open invitation to all challengers!


    This post was posted in Books, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Mark Batterson, Corn-Hole

  • Gavin MacLeod - A Man Changed By Christ

    Posted on July 31, 2013 by John van der Veen



    The remarkable life, career, and faith journey of the star of The Love Boat and The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

    For 16 years, millions of Americans welcomed Gavin MacLeod into their living rooms every Saturday night. This veteran of stage and screen transformed himself from a seasoned character actor into the leading, lovable father-figure of The Love Boat at the height of TV’s boom years.

    For more than 30 years, Gavin MacLeod has served as the global ambassador for Princess Cruises. Speaking to thousands of travelers each year, and signing hundreds of autographs at every port, he stands poised to celebrate his amazing journey with a look back at the golden era of American television.

    The consummate storyteller, Gavin shares his fondest memories of meeting and working with countless stars, such as Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Milton Berle, and Fred Astaire.

    At first I was a bit hesitant to interview Gavin. I didn't know where he was coming from, and I didn't know much about his story. I knew that he claimed Christ as his savior, but I didn't know how passionate he was about Christ.

    Now, on the other side of the interview, I am so grateful for meeting this man. A man who has obviously been so changed by Christ.

    John: Gavin, before we begin talking about your new book, which is called This is Your Captain Speaking--obviously a very appropriate title--can you give us the rundown about how you got into Hollywood? How did you become an actor?

    Gavin: This is all in the book, too. Anyway, it started really when I was four years old. If you do it from four to 82, I’ve always said I should be a lot better. I was in kindergarten and I was in a play. I had a lot of cute hair then at that time. It was a Mother’s Day play; I remember it so vividly, John. A Mother’s Day play and I played a little boy who wanted to get something for his mother for Mother’s Day but I didn’t have any money. I didn’t know what to do, so I walked into the forest, where each one of my classmates played a different animal. The last animal was the largest one in the class, he must have been five years old and he was a bear. He said the thing to give your mother was a bear hug.

    I went back through the forest, the play must have taken about ten minutes, I don’t know. Each animal saying I’m going to give my mother a bear hug and I finally got back to the girl playing my mother, I gave her a bear hug. The play was over. Everybody took a bow and I took the last bow and I heard that applause. You talk to many actors my age, it’s kind of a similar thing. The applause made me feel that somebody really liked me. I said I want to do more of that. From that moment on, when I started writing compositions in school it was all about how I wanted to be an actor, how I wanted to spend my life. Then eventually when I got to high school, I quit the football team to go and do a play and they had a contest and I won that contest every year.

    I finally won a scholarship to Ithaca College, and that’s when I was first exposed unbelief (in God). I never realized until I got to college, because I came from a small town called Pleasantville, New York, that anyone ever thought there wasn’t a God. We’re all believers in our community, most of the ones I knew anyway. That opened a whole new world to me of new thinking. I thought, “Gee whiz, what is going on here?” That was the beginning.

    After college, I went to New York and got Radio City Music Hall and made $34 a week. One of my big thrills was taking up Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in my elevator one night. I was bald, I had lost my hair in college. I saved enough money, I thought, $125, so I could get a hairpiece--because they don’t write parts for young guys with bald heads. I finally went to a place--and it’s a long story; it’s all in the book--but I finally got a second-hand hairpiece for $125. That hairpiece got me my first Broadway play! I wore that hairpiece on and off.

    Anyway, after that, I did four off-Broadway plays. And then I went on the road without my hair. I had to save enough money to get married because I became engaged to a Rockette.

    So I went on the road, saved all that money, got married, and was working at a restaurant in New York City where all the big stars would go. I was the cashier, and that’s where I met Marilyn Monroe. That’s all in the book, too. They were doing a Hatful of Rain, an incredible play with Shelley Winters, Ben Gazzara, Anthony Franciosa, Harry Guardino. It was an Actor’s Studio project and I didn’t belong to the Actor’s Studio at all. Anthony Franciosa was discovered and was going to movies and everybody was moving up. I went to audition opposite all these Actor’s Studio actors and I came back to work. I was at my cashier’s post one night and the producer came in and said, “You got your first Broadway show, kid.”

    I was with the Hatful of Rain in New York and on the road for a year and a half. On the road, when I was in California, I had an offer to do a movie. Playing a drug addict and drug pusher, but I couldn’t do it because I was under contract to the play and I wouldn’t leave the play. That gave me a spurt of encouragement. I said maybe I can do something out there. I finished the whole tour in Boston, got to New York and my wife and I talked about it. I couldn’t get an agent in New York. I was this young guy with a hairpiece which belonged to somebody else years ago. I said, “I think I’ll go to the west coast.“

    We knew one person who knew an agent on the west coast. So we contacted that agent, Lou Irwin, and I flew out and went to Lou Irwin’s office and that’s where I met Ted Knight. If you’ve ever watched the Mary Tyler Moore show, you know who Ted Knight is. I don’t know how old you are, John, so a lot of the stuff I talk about I don’t know if you even know who I’m talking about.

    John: A little bit.

    Gavin: The eventuality was that Ted Knight was one of the best actors of all time. I met him in the office my first day on the west coast. I did a play immediately there and I got attention from that. That was the beginning of my career on the west coast. Eventually, one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had in my life would transpire: I brought my friend Ted Knight to the Lord before he passed. That was one of the greatest moments I have ever had in my life and that’s all in the book too. It’s all because of the business, and if you want to hear how God works, after the Mary Tyler Moore show was over, that ran for seven years.

    My wife and I had a nightclub act. We were going to go do that again and go back in the theater. I got a call from Aaron Spelling to do this thing called the Love Boat. I asked my agent, “Well what do you think about it? Have you read it?” He says, “I’ve read it.” I said, “Well, what do you think?” He says, “Well, I think it sucks. Do you want to read it?” I said, “Sure, I want to read it.” He gave it to me. I read it and said, “I think this can do something.” My wife read it and said “I think this can go, Gavin.” We went and did the Love Boat. Every critic thought it was going to sink like the Titanic. That it was mindless television. They thought it was just a waste of time, but the public loved it! You can see what the cruise industry is today and it’s all because of the Love Boat. You talk to anybody who is in the industry who was there years ago. It’s all because of the push it had from that show.

    John: How many years was the Love Boat on?

    Gavin: Almost ten years. All over the world. The Mary Tyler Moore show was just here and in England, and I saw one in Italy, too, when I was there. The Love Boat was international. Completely international.

    This is the point I wanted to make. I found out later that they had made two pilots of the Love Boat, way before me. With two different captains. They both had their own hair. They both had what you might call leading men kinds of bodies, you know, but it didn’t sell. I think the Lord was waiting for me. He put me in that job and as a result of that job and a result of the happenings in my life since then, and the kinds of movies I have done now like the Secrets of Jonathan Sperry and Timechanger.

    My preoccupation, my reason for living is to bring people to Jesus. He has brought me so much in my life. He has given me way beyond anything I thought. I thought I could maybe do my one Broadway play and maybe do one movie and then go and teach. It just hasn’t worked out that way. I am a very grateful, grateful person. Did I answer your question?

    John: (Laughter) Yes, you did. Absolutely. Gavin, just talking a little bit more about the Love Boat. I’m sure you have 1,001 memories about that time in your life. What is one memory that stands out that you’re really fond of?

    Gavin: When my wife did the first show she had ever done. We had attended a wedding for the actress who played Julie McCoy on the show--the cruise director--was getting married. It was at Bel Air Hotels. My wife’s name’s Patti, and we were sitting behind Aaron Spelling, who was Mr. TV, the giant producer, and his wife, Candy. He turned around and said, “Patti, I’ve got a great part for you next week.” Completely unsolicited. Patti came in and she played opposite Jim Backus, if you’re familiar with him. She was just socko! She was just wonderful on that show.

    I was very protective of her because she had never done anything like that, playing scenes without me before. She was basically a dancer and a singer. When I met her, I said “Oh, you’re so funny and you have such wonderful timing when you tell your stories, let’s see if you can walk and talk at the same time.” That’s what we call it. I took out a play called the Seven Year Itch, where she was like the third lead, she was the wife. She only had three or four smaller scenes. I wanted to see how she’d do and she did really great. I knew she had that aptitude and so, consequently, she just went on and had a wonderful career of her own acting. That first one she did on the Love Boat, where I was so protective of her, that on the last shoot, the last day, the crew came with a big t-shirt, a yellow t-shirt that said “Stage Mother Captain” on it for me.

    John: I love it.

    Gavin: We had a very happy crew.

    John: You guys all got along very well?

    Gavin: Yes. I learned a lot from Mary Tyler Moore. Mary Tyler Moore set the pace. When you’re in the theater, you have to be conscientious, you have to be early. I’ve taught that’s what you have to do. You’re the leader of the pack and how you are behaving is how the rest will pick up on. If you know you’re lines, if you’re on time, if you’re early, if you’re pleasant…

    The great thrill about that, there’s so many different things with the Love Boat, I’m still in awe, is that I was working with some of the people that I wanted to be like when I was a little boy. They would come to my captain’s table. I would have scenes with them like Mary Martin who I saw do South Pacific originally with Pinza in New York City. I was in high school. I just fell in love with her. When she sang “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” I thought she was singing to me. Then 35 years later, I’m holding her in my arms. I said, “Can I tell you something? I’ve been in love with you since I was 16 years old.” She signed a nice picture for me, she’s gone now, too.

    There’s so many different moments. Marion Ross is a good old friend of mine, too. She played Mrs. C on Happy Days, Mrs. Cunningham. Do you remember that?

    John: Yes.

    Gavin: Okay. Well, she and I have been friends. If you read the book you’ll see that we had worked together in 1957 when I first came out here opposite each other. We had been friends and then we did Operation Petticoat together with Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. Did you ever see that movie?

    John: I did not.

    Gavin: You should see that movie. That’s a wonderful movie for the family to see. It’s a comedy and it’s all based on real events that happened to different ships during the second World War. They encapsulated it into one ship for the movie. It’s a wonderful, wonderful, clean, family movie. It broke the record at Radio City Music Hall at that time when it played there.

    John: I wrote it down.

    Gavin: You should see that, John. Honestly, if you have any children ever. It’s just a fabulous movie. I played a little guy called Hunkle in that, the yeoman and there’s a great scene where Tony and I steal a pig, but Marion is in it, too. Marion and I go way back.

    On the Love Boat, like the last couple of years, they said you know we’re thinking about having a permanent love interest for the captain. I said “I think that would be great.” It’d be good for some of the older people out there. They had a list of different stars, big names. I said, “You know who I would like? Marion Ross.” She had just had a run on Happy Days and all, so they said Mrs. C. I said, “Yeah.” I said, “We play very well together.” They hired her. We had two years of working together on that show. When the show ended, we went on the road in a play called Never Too Late and wound up in Cape Cod.

    When I was in Cape Cod, that night, I got a call that Ted had died. His wife communicated with me that she wanted me to do the eulogy. I prayed that the Holy Spirit would just tell me what to say because I know there were going to be a lot of nonbelievers there. It just came out reviewing our friendship and everything and about all the awards you’ve ever received, Ted, nothing was as important as the last time I saw you when you gave your life to Christ. Now you have it all. I’ll always remember you as a little song, a little dance, a little salsa down your pants.

    It’s too bad you don’t know who I’m talking about because if you ever look at the Mary Tyler Moore show, and that’s another show if you have children that you can watch. It’s one of the most brilliantly written comedies ever and it’s very poignant in areas, too. It came about 1970 when Women’s Lib. was really big, so it addressed all that.

    John: We have the full season of the Dick Van Dyke show at home and we’ve certainly enjoyed watching that.

    Gavin: I did one of those. I did the one called “Empress Carlotta’s Necklace.”

    John: I’ll have to play it when I get home from work today.

    Gavin: I was the one, remember Richard Deacon played Mel with the bald head. When he said, “Oh, my cousin’s here.” On the sets in Hollywood, you always have a guy showing up or a woman with a big thing selling jewelry. This is about this guy coming in, Dick and Mary are having an anniversary and he says, “I want you to meet my nephew,” so I show up. It’s a wonderful character part. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s done in the mid-60’s there and I sell Dick Empress Carlotta’s necklace for like $39.95. He brings it to Mary as a gift, that’s all I’ll tell you then you just have to see the show. It was one of the prizewinning ones. “Empress Carlotta’s Necklace.”

    I did that, and then I was doing another one where I played this little Jewish guy who was in love with Rosemary. She used to order sandwiches and I sent her notes in the middle of the sandwich to read. We were in the middle of the shoot, rehearsing and then we had a weekend off and I came down with appendicitis. I couldn’t do it then and they got another actor. I was in the hospital feeling so sorry for myself because what a wonderful group. You can’t imagine being in the presence of Carl Reiner, Sheldon Leonard--one of the great guys of all time--Danny Thomas and Dick and Mary and Maury and Rosie, you know. Rosie’s pretty long in the teeth right now.

    Anyway, well I’m glad you’re watching that. I did a lot of those things you know. The other thing as far as the Love Boat goes, a highlight with me was when Patti came on. Meeting those big stars, having Marion Ross and the last one we did, we got married and I had my friend Jan Peters from college, he played the minister and married us.

    The other favorite one was when my daughter Jill came aboard, when Vicki came on the show. Aaron Spelling came to me and said, “We’re thinking about you having a daughter.” I said, “How can I have a daughter if I’m not married?” He said, “Remember the episode that we did a long time ago where you were in love with this model?” I said, “Oh yeah.” “And she wanted to marry you?” I said, “Yeah, but she issued an ultimatum. She told me, either you or the sea. I don’t want to marry you and have you be gone all the time.” Some very interesting things going on.

    After much, much trepidation he says, “I have to be on the sea, I have to be on the water.” He said, “From that relationship, you could have produced a child. That child shows up on the boat.” That’s how that whole story started. We had some very interesting stuff with Vicki, this young girl showing up on the boat and how we all realized, and how I realized... It’s very, very interesting stuff. Also, we got a lot of young viewers because there was someone for them to associate with. The Love Boat picked up another few thousand people. It’s interesting to think why that show was so successful.

    There were so many different ingredients, but I think the main thing to me is when a show was all over. My wife and I had an apartment in New York, so I went to the apartment in New York and I had some cleaning, so I brought some cleaning to the cleaning shop that we used to trade in and it was a new young woman there. She said, “Oh man, aren’t you the captain?” I said, “Well, yes I was.” “Well, why did they take that show off?” I said, “Well, someone else bought the network and I guess they thought it was too expensive.” “But you have to go back and tell them to put it back on.” I said, “Why young lady?” She said, “Because that show used to give me something to dream about. There’s nothing on television that gives me anything to dream about.” That’s what it did.

    I represent Princess Cruises, you know John? Ever since the show went off the air. I was in Australia just last year and it was my birthday and I was meeting this huge congregation of Princess employees in Sydney. I said what am I going to tell these people and then I realized what that girl said. I said, “You know, it’s an honor for me to be here in front of all of you. I’m glad you’re taking time out from work with me to celebrate my birthday, but let me celebrate you because you should know, what you are doing with your lives are allowing people to realize their dreams. A lot of people go to work and that doesn’t happen. They don’t have that kind of a job, but you have that job.” I said, “I’ll tell you the truth, as my captain would say, ‘I salute you.’”

    I think that’s a very important ingredient that someone has something to dream about. It’s not a shootout kind of thing, it’s not a negative thing, it’s not these sex things that go on. Cruising does change lives. I’ve seen it happen over and over and over again. I’ve been on so many ships and seen so many people.

    John: Gavin, I had read that you and Patti got divorced and then remarried. Obviously, there’s reconciliation that took place. What brought you guys back together again?

    Gavin: That’s a major theme in my book. I mean that’s one of the major moments in my book. When things started to move with the Love Boat, it got so big, and big, and big and I was the leader and the responsibility I had was enormous. If I wasn’t on the screen, I was all over the country pushing it and doing interviews. It became almost obsessive to me and I didn’t know the Lord at that time. I just put my work before my wife. I said I just don’t have time; I can’t come in after work. I leave when it’s dark; I come home when it’s dark. I’m learning lines. I do a lot of stuff behind the scenes you don’t see when you see the show.

    I very selfishly put myself and my job before my wife and so I’ve got to get a divorce. I have to get out of here. I could just concentrate on all that. I did. For those three years, she had gone to a therapist. When I met her, she introduced me to a new age teaching and that new age teaching was me. I’m first. There’s no such thing as sin. You’re supposed to be happy, not unhappy. Do what you want to do. That’s why having that kind of indoctrination in my head, leaving her was not as dreadful as it really is. It really is, it’s a terrible thing. I was very selfish at that time, but because of that kind of a teaching it sort of falls into place.

    For three years, we didn’t see each other. Three years she went to a psychiatrist in New York and out here all saying I want my husband back and he doesn’t want to be married so you’ve got to carry on. One day she went to some kind of a Buddhist place where they had pictures of a yogi or Gandhi or something and a picture of Jesus and she was sitting there. All she did was pray for me to come back. She wasn’t born again yet. She was praying. This man came up to her who was one of the yogis in a robe and he says, “Is there anything I can do for you?” She says, “My husband, I need him back.” He said, “You know, there are those pictures there on the altar. Jesus is the real thing.” She carried that with her.

    One day, she got a call from Patti, Jerry Lewis’ ex-wife. She told my wife Patti, she says, “Patti, I want to take you some place. I want you to meet some ladies.” We were living at the beach then. Patti Lewis picked her up and took her to a house in Beverly Hills where she went and saw all these ladies sitting there and on the mantle of this big house there were all these Oscars. She says, “Wow, this is really something.” It was Johnny Green’s wife. Johnny Green was one of the major musicians here. He usually conducted the Oscars. He did “Raintree County.” He won all those Oscars for his music.

    These women were there in a prayer circle. Patti says, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” They introduced her and asked her, “Would you like prayer for anything?” She says, “Yes, I’d like to have my husband back.” One little voice, this good friend of ours who went to be with the Lord two years ago, she said, “If you want your husband back, you can have him back.” They started to pray for me. Patti had never experienced anything like that. That lady’s name was Louise French. She’s with Jesus now.

    The night of that happening, we researched it. The night of this happening, I went to a play with Bernie Kopell and his wife, he played the doctor on the show, in Santa Monica. That’s where Patti was having this. After the play, I said, “I wonder how Patti’s doing?” I hadn’t had that thought before. I drove around where we used to live. I tried to see her. Then I went home. The next morning I prayed to Jesus because my mother had a brain situation. A cyst the size of a baseball in the left brain and they were going to have to operate. That morning, you get the chronology? They prayed for Patti that day, that same day I went to see the play I started to think about her.

    The next morning, I’m in bed and my mom’s operation’s in Palm Springs and I’m in Beverly Hills. I prayed to Jesus that if you give my mother more time I’ll turn my life over to you. I don’t care if I act anymore, but dear Jesus give her more time. After I said that, something told me to call Patti. I didn’t even have her phone number. I called my secretary Judy. I said, “Judy, have you got Patti’s number?” “Why boss?” I said, “I don’t know. I have to call her.” “Why?” “I don’t know. I just know I have to call her.” She gave me the number.

    It was like 7:15 in the morning. I’m usually off to work at a quarter to six, but I had a late call that day. I called her. I said, “This is Gavin.” She said, “Oh, I was just thinking about you.” “Can I see you?” I don’t even know why I’m saying this John, it’s just coming out. I said, “Can I see you?” She said, “Well, yes, but I have to be away. I started a group called LADIES.” I said, “Well, what it is?” She said, “Well, it stands for Life After DIvorce can Eventually be Sane.” All these ladies who’ve been divorced by well-known people, Patti was one of the starters of this group. She says, “We go from city to city as a support team for other people like us. Who’ve been dumped.” I said, “Okay.”

    We made a date for the following Monday. I went down there. I got out of work early. Nobody answered the door. I kept knocking and knocking and knocking. The third time there she is. We hug and she says, “I’m sorry, you’re dinner’s cold. It’s been waiting for three years.” Great line, huh?

    John: Great line.

    Gavin: Then we started talking. She said, “Pat and Shirley Boone have become very good friends of mine and they’ve been a blessing to born again marriages.” Wonderful ministry. They’ve taught me to do some things and this is what I do. Whenever I come in the house now,” (it was an apartment), she said, “Hi honey, I’m home.” She said, “Look, I put my wedding ring back on,” and “Let me go get you something.” She went and she showed me a Bible with my name on it she had made. We just sat down there and we talked and fell asleep and talked and fell asleep. We never did eat that food.

    So much had changed. She had changed so much, it seemed to me. Now, she really had Jesus. She really had committed to Jesus and I said, “Patti, this is what I want. This is what I long for.” She had put on some television and the first one we saw was Kenneth Copeland. He eventually became a very good friend of ours and to Gloria and all. We went up there in Texas a few times to see them.

    Anyway, that was the beginning of our whole getting back together. Then I had to go to work. I started to hear with different ears. I started to see with different things. God started to do a work in me. I didn’t want to hear those dirty jokes anymore. I used to be the leader of all that. I didn’t want to hear those things. The guys weren’t too happy with me, but they tolerated me. I didn’t care because now I was with the Truth. My Lord has forgiven me of my sins.

    I eventually went through a process and I became born-again. Patti and I were both baptized in the water at Church on the Way with Pastor Jack. I will never forget that moment in my life as long as I live. Being baptized in the water and being told nothing before this moment has ever happened. Our sins are washed away.

    John: That story, just is absolutely incredible. There’s two things that I hear going on that just fly in the face of contemporary culture. First of all, you rarely hear of couples that have been divorced being brought back together just in regular contemporary Americana. Secondly, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard that story for anybody who has worked in Hollywood such as both you and Patti have. You both stand as a testimony of God’s grace and reconciliation.

    That story is so fantastic and, honestly, this is my prayer for you, that both of you will continue to share that because it speaks volumes of God’s grace to so many couples that are struggling even right now. This is going to be transcribed into a blog, and so people who are reading this and reading your testimony, Gavin, they’re going to be encouraged by the dramatic effects that God has done through both you and your wife.

    Gavin: That John, that’s exactly to me the purpose of my book. I didn’t care about writing a book about my life. If I can bring one person to Jesus, or if I can bring one couple back together, it will be worth all of the work and all of the energy and everything else that it’s taken to get this book done. That’s the purpose in life. My purpose in life is as an ambassador for Christ. The thing is John, I’ve never won an Oscar, never won an Emmy, never won a Tony. I’ve been given the greatest award anyone could ever receive, that’s eternal life.

    John: Amen, brother.

    Gavin: He’s forgiven me my sins. Born again, I’ve become an ambassador for Christ as John says. The most rewarding role I have ever had. With that comes a lot of responsibility. Someone was looking on a blog the other day and they saw my name. I said, “Patti, look I finally made it. It says Gavin MacLeod, actor and Christian activist.” Wow, Christian activist. That’s like getting a star from the Lord. You know what I mean? Putting it right out there.

    This story, I haven’t even finished how God has blessed us… We used to go to different born-again marriage seminars and give our testimony. Then on Trinity Broadcasting Network, we had a program for seven years called Back on Course. That was our first book, Back on Course. God used us that way. Even just two weeks ago, I got a note from someone. I get notes from people all over the world. This lady was from Trinidad and the husband had left for about six years and he saw our program one night and he contacted her and they got remarried.

    We were on a ship once and our little mailbox, if you’ve been on a ship outside your suite or wherever you are, they have a little mailbox and we found a thing there. Some lady was saying, “My husband and I owe our marriage to you because we were broken, completely broken. We heard your story and he said well, my heavens if God can do it for them, He can do it for me too. We’ve been back together and I just want to thank you for that.”

    When I go on Princess Cruises, sometimes they let me do a Sunday service. I get to do my testimony. The last one, I was coming from the Mediterranean and Adriatic and mostly English people on this ship. I got a wonderful, wonderful note from a woman who said, “I have been a pastor all my life and I decided, okay, now I’ve done it and now I don’t have to do it anymore. Then I heard you this morning, I realized it’s never over. What have I done? I said I don’t want to pastor anymore? I don’t want to speak the Word of God anymore? I don’t want to be a symbol of what God can do for you?” She wrote me this, she says, “I’m going back to the ministry after hearing you.”

    Those kinds of moments really feed into my gratitude so much. You know what I mean? God can take me, this guy that used to drink and I thought I knew Him but I didn’t know Him and all that kind of stuff and use me as an instrument. That’s what He used me as, an instrument. I’m just so grateful. I’m 82 now, but I have such a purposeful life. I want to go and go and go and bring as many people. When I go on the road with my book, I’ll be preaching almost all over the place until they close me down. I want people to know that, what I want to get across, is that He can do this for anybody.

    John: Amen.

    Gavin: My wife is going through a very difficult time now, John. She needs assisted living right now. The devil has attacked her for years and years and years in her mind. Her frontal lobe has decreased 40%. She’s in a place where they kind of help her with medication and things like that now because of this really abnormal depression and anxiety. We know Joyce Meyer says it’s a battlefield of the mind, you know? It’s true. We have everybody we know praying for Patti and her healing.

    John: We are joining you.

    Gavin: Listen, God bless you and your family and all the time you’ve given. It just made this a very important hour for me.

    John: Thank you, Gavin, so much for your time. God bless you, brother.

    Gavin: God bless you, too.

     


    This post was posted in Books, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Joyce Meyer, Pat Boone, Gavin MacLeod, Jack Hayford, Kenneth Copeland

  • Hope Runs in the Middle of Life - Claire Diaz-Ortiz

    Posted on July 25, 2013 by John van der Veen



    Claire Diaz-Ortiz leads social innovation at Twitter, Inc., and is the author of several books, including Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she is a frequent international speaker on social media, business, and innovation and writes a popular business blog at www.clairediazortiz.com. She holds an MBA from Oxford University and an MA and BA in anthropology from Stanford University. She is cofounder of Hope Runs, a non-profit organization operating in AIDS orphanages in Kenya. Claire has been called a "mover and shaker" by Mashable, "the woman who got the pope on Twitter" by The Washington Post, a "force for good" by Forbes, and "one of the most generous in social media" by Fast Company. She has been widely written about in such publications as the New York Times, Business Week, The Washington Post, and Forbes.

    I sat down with Claire recently and talked through her amazing life. How she, as it seems to have lived such great stories in such a short time. What unraveled was not just intriguing, but also thrilling. Here is a women who is constantly living out what it means to be a "hearer of God." Or - Claire is a women who hears God. Not in a audible way, but in the still small voice kind of way.

    Her story is filled with passion for the lost and lonely. Her story is filled with hope running wildly through the middle of life.

    John: Claire, I'm wondering, maybe before we talk a little bit about your new book, if you want to just give us a brief history of who you are and what you have done. I think I know what your current job title is, but maybe if you just want to give us a brief overview of where you started and what made you interested in social media, that would be a good place to start.

    Claire: Sure. In 2006, I went on a trip around the world. And the last stop on that trip--it was a yearlong trip--was Kenya, where I went to climb Mount Kenya. Someone had told me that there was a guesthouse near the base of the mountain, so I decided to stay at that guesthouse. It was very cheap. The day I went to the guesthouse, I realized that it was actually on the grounds of an orphanage. When I arrived, the orphanage elders invited me in to have lunch at the orphanage. I went in that day and in the middle of lunch, I was in the restroom and I heard God telling me that I would stay at that orphanage. And so I ended up living at the orphanage for a year. My foster son was a child I met that first day, who ended up coming back with me to the U.S. So this book ...

    John: On that trip?

    Claire: Yeah, we met on that trip.

    John: Oh, you met on that trip, and eventually ...

    Claire: We met on that trip. I stayed, living at the orphanage for a year, and then about nine months or a year after, I came back. We brought him to the U.S.

    John: So, just to clarify. You were going to stay there one day, and you ended up staying a year?

    Claire: Yes. And getting that kid along the way. So, the book, Hope Runs is our story. It's the story of Sammy's life before coming to the orphanage, and my life before coming to the orphanage, and then us meeting that day, living together that year, and then the five years that have happened since then, essentially. During the year I lived at the orphanage, I had a blog that was popular. Because I had this popular blog, I ended up meeting some of the folks that were starting a little weird social media thing called Twitter. And so they said, "Hey, you should try getting on Twitter. We think it could be really cool for you to tweet about things." And so, I started tweeting while I was living at this orphanage in Kenya. Obviously, there weren't a lot of people tweeting about their lives in orphanages in Kenya at the time, so I started to learn very early on how Twitter could be used for non-profit organizations and missionaries. Eventually, then, about a year later, I started working at the company where I still work today.

    John: So to some extent, your career or your life story has two different paths. Because it certainly is philanthropy on the one side, but then it's also this crazy social media world on the other side. How have those collided, or how have they been beneficial for you in your history?

    Claire: Sure. I believe that we need to extend access to more populations on the planet for us to gain the change we are looking for. And I think that Twitter is a great tool for doing that. I think the online world creates a level playing field for lots of populations, different populations around the world. So I like being able to work with non-profit organizations from a cool platform like Twitter.

    John: That's very cool. So, going back then to this trip. You decided to climb Mount Kenya. Was this the first time that you had an encounter with God, or were you kind of on a journey with Him before?

    Claire: Yeah, no, I've always been a Christian. I was raised a Christian but up until that day, I've never heard God so distinctly. I've never heard him saying to me so clearly that something was going to happen, and I had to keep my eyes open for me to know what that was going to be, essentially. You know, that day in the orphanage, I decided to... I said, "I'm not going to climb the mountain. I'm going to do a 72-hour fast and read the Bible. I read lots of books about things like that, bettering yourself and what not.

    John: Yes, I found your list for 2013, I was intrigued…

    Claire: So inside I’m saying, "Okay, I'm going to read the whole Bible, and I'm going to fast while I do it, and then I'm going to come up with my decision on if I'm going to stay in the orphanage for a year." And I like to joke that I fainted somewhere near Leviticus, and they took me to the hospital (literally), because I had actually fainted. They thought I had malaria. But at that point I already decided I was going to live at the orphanage for the year, so it was okay.

    John: So going through the book of Leviticus should convict someone [laughs]…

    Claire: Exactly, exactly. To do anything.

    John: To do anything. That's amazing. What do you say to the person who thinks that maybe, at some point in their life, God has spoken to them but they may have missed that voice or that sign? How does someone kind of look at their life and question whether or not God is speaking to them?

    Claire: It's interesting, because I've often questioned why did I hear God, so distinctly that day, and why haven't I heard him so distinctly since. I've obviously heard God many times in my life, but what happened that day was bigger than anything that's ever happened to me before since. And, I really think a lot of the reason that it happened was that I had a lot of space in my life for it to come in. I was in a moment of searching, I had some time, there was margin in my life, essentially, and that allowed me to hear. I think probably most of us live our lives so busy and so full that we don't allow time to hear. Maybe we have 15 or 20 minutes in the morning of our quiet time or something. But that's not a lot if you're looking for God to really change your life.

    John: That's very interesting and also very convicting. In talking about the margin, Claire, I just have to ask the question, because in social media, we have access to the entire world at our fingertips 24/7. How do you make time, encourage either somebody who's younger or older or getting into or feeling addicted to social media, be it Facebook or Twitter, whatever. How do you plan margin in your life?

    Claire: Well, I think it's funny. Some people have thought I've been kind of heretical to say, does working at Twitter mean that I take the digital Sabbath? But I do. I try to take 24 hours off in every single week. And I think it completely restores me in ways that would never happen if I just stayed online. I mean, it's just so easy for us to get caught up in the fast-paced world we live in. And then in the fast-paced world, if you're spending all your time online, it feels even more fast-paced than ever. So you need to step away eventually and just shut it off and pause and stop.

    John: Have you always been a writer?

    Claire: Yeah. In my head.

    John: Sure. But I mean, you haven't come out with a lot of books, right, but you've probably written...

    Claire: Yeah. Sure.

    John: You know, unpublished or like you said...

    Claire: Right. I wrote a book about Twitter that came out a couple of years ago. And, as I say, I've always been writing in my head or something. I have all the Moleskin journals to prove it.

    John: Well, that's good. Encourage somebody who's on the fence about either foster care or adoption. What signs should they be looking at to either dive in or maybe hold off for that? How do you approach somebody who's considering that?

    Claire: Well, I think it's interesting, because I'm probably overly encouraging of anyone who's considering it. I actually ...

    John: Which is okay.

    Claire: I mean, I want people to be in a stable marriage if they're married, or to be in a stable financial situation, a stable living situation. Those things are important. But, I think that emotional renaissance, or emotional insecurities about the decision to adopt or the decision to foster, will always exist. Just in the same way that many soon-to-be biological parents have insecurities. And I don't think that's ever really going to go away. I don't think a hundred percent of the foster adoptive parents in the world are running around saying, "I can't wait for him or her to get here this second." But I think they all find that love very, very quickly upon meeting your new kid, essentially.

    John: So it's said that expecting parents are never, ever ... Even before they're expecting, they're never ready for a child. Do you think the same is true when they're expecting an adoption or a foster care child?

    Claire: Absolutely. And I think perhaps, even more so. Simply because often times when you're adopting or getting a foster child, you're getting a kid at a different age than day one. And you never quite know what day 1,000 might be for a child. And that comes with its own host of challenges.

    John: What has been the best surprise about Sammy in your life?

    Claire: I think the best surprise about Sammy has been simply the way that when I do little things, I'm amazed by how much Sammy appreciates them. When we were in the process of writing this book, I learned stories I never knew about Sammy. I thought I knew things about him, I thought he knew things particularly about his life in the last seven years since I've known him. But I was learning all these new things and one of them was, the emotion he felt the first time my best friend baked him a cake. Because he'd never... She baked him a cake because we were celebrating. He had graduated and he'd never had a cake baked for him before. And he was just so overcome with joy at this little thing. I hadn't even thought that, I dont' even know ... I guess we had bought cakes for him on past birthdays, past birthdays, I don't even know. And then the fact that the cake had been baked by someone because they cared about him, he was just like, "This is amazing." And he wrote this story in the book, and I just couldn't believe it. I started crying just because I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that A) no one had baked him a cake, and B) that I never knew that was important, 'cause I would've baked the cake years earlier, obviously.

    John: What is God teaching you lately?

    Claire: God is teaching me an incredible amount of patience right now.

    John: And how is he doing that?

    Claire: One of the ways .. There are different ways in my life, but one of the ways is in relation to Sammy. You know my parents sometimes say I got kind of the hardest end of parenting 'cause I started this with a teenager.

    John: How old was he when you took ...

    Claire: I met him at 13. He came over at 14 and a half, 15. You know that is a challenge. I think any teenager is a challenge. A parent of a teenager faces challenges and I'm facing all that. So without having had the years to kind of set him up for success in many ways, we are tackling those things. And that's hard.

    About Hope Runs

    Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to AIDS, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered Tumaini Children's Home seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.

    When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home to Maine. She entered Tumaini Children's Home seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek.
    God had other plans.

    Hope Runs
    is the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It's about what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It's about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it's about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Orphans, Kenya, Claire Diaz-Ortiz

  • One On One with Suzanne Woods Fisher

    Posted on July 18, 2013 by John van der Veen

    Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and A Lancaster County Christmas, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Benedict eventually became publisher of Christianity Today magazine. Suzanne is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom, and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

    With Suzanne's signature plot twists combined with gentle Amish romance, she invites readers back to Stoney Ridge for The Letters, the first book in her The Inn at Eagle Hill series, featuring fresh stories of simple pleasures despite the complexity of life.

    Description for the book - Rose Schrock is a plain woman with a simple plan. Determined to find a way to support her family and pay off her late husband's debts, she sets to work to convert the basement of her Amish farmhouse into an inn. While her family, especially her cranky mother-in-law, is unhappy with Rose's big idea, her friend and neighbor, Galen King, supports the decision and he helps with the conversion.

    As Rose finalizes preparations for visitors, she prays. She asks God to bless each guest who stays at the Inn at Eagle Hill. As the first guest arrives and settles in, Rose is surprised to discover that her entire family is the one who receives the blessings, in the most unexpected ways. And she's even more surprised when that guest decides to play matchmaker for Galen King!

    I had a short one on one conversation with Suzanne recently about inspiration and life in general.

    Suzanne, what got you interested in writing about the Amish?

    The answer to that goes back to my grandfather and his siblings. He was raised Old Order German Baptist, a cousin to the Amish, and I grew up with an admiration for my Dunkard relatives. When I was thirteen, my cousin's little boy was passing away because of a genetic metabolic disorder. Watching my cousin and her husband walk through that period in their life with such peace in their hearts, such confidence in the sovereignty of God--well, it made an impact on me. In college, my major was American Studies and I learned more about the Anabaptists. Years later, when an editor from [my publisher] spoke to my agent about a non-fiction book about the Amish, I was ready!

    How have you been encouraged by the people living within an Amish community?

    Sometimes I think people get distracted by the buggies and bonnets and beards and they stop there. They assume the Amish are all about a simple, old-fashioned life. But there's much more to glean from the Amish--their sense of community, their commitment to forgiveness, their belief in the sovereignty of God in all matters. They take Jesus' Sermon on the Mount to heart--and that's what inspires and encourages me.

    Are any of the characters in your books based on your personal life?

    Oh, lots of them! Makes my friends ver-r-r-r-r-r-y nervous.

    What has God been teaching you lately?

    On August 1st, my youngest daughter is moving to China to teach at an international school. This is a terrific career opportunity for her and we had lived in Hong Kong for four years, so I have a comfort zone with living in an Asian city. It's all good! But...there's a part of me that's grieving, too. I worry about the what-if's--will my daughter move back to the San Francisco Bay Area when her contract is up? Will she get hooked on the international teaching life (which is a pretty sweet gig!)? Will she meet that "special someone" overseas and never come home? I've had to keep my palms open, metaphorically, about these worries and trust in God's providence for my daughter's future. I do believe that God has a wonderful plan for my daughter's life (for all my children...and yours, too!). I do believe it...and yet I don't always feel that peace. So that's what God is teaching me this summer--holding on lightly and trusting Him completely.

    What is on your "bucket list?"

    My first thought is to make it on the New York Times bestseller list--but I guess a bucket list isn't really a wish list, is it? On the short list: traveling to visit my daughter in China and seeing parts of Asia that we missed when we lived in Hong Kong. Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos are first on the list! Stay tuned...

    For more from Suzanne, click here.


    This post was posted in Books, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Fiction, Suzanne Woods Fisher

  • Alex Kendrick on The Lost Medallion

    Posted on July 18, 2013 by John van der Veen

    The Lost Medallion: The Adventures of Billy Stone is a feature movie coming to DVD & Blu-ray May 21st. This faith-based, family, action/adventure film will thrill children and tweens, six through fourteen, their parents and grandparents. When Daniel Anderson (Alex Kendrick; Fireproof, Courageous, and Facing the Giants) visits a foster home to drop off some donations he is quickly roped into telling the kids a story.

    The story he tells is about Billy Stone and Allie, two teen-age-friends, who uncover a long- lost-medallion and then accidentally wish themselves back in time. Will the experience give them a new understanding of who they are and what their lives really mean? Daniel finishes his story to the foster children with the Truth about their tremendous value to God, who loves them and created them. The story not only changes the children, but is bound to change all who see the movie.

    Here is a recent Q&A with Alex.

    1. How did you get involved with the Lost Medallion?

    My good friend Kevin Downes was a producer on the film and he introduced me to the director, Bill Muir. We began talking about the film and the fact that Bill thought it lacked something. I pitched the "foster home" idea to him where a story-teller shares the journey of the medallion with the kids at the home. In this way, the rest of the movie becomes the story that's being told, kind of like Princess Bride. We added deeper story elements as a result of this, and Bill asked me to play the role of the story-teller.

    2. When you were a child, did you have dreams of being involved in movies?

    I did. My parents were very careful of the entertainment we allowed in our home, but the few movies I saw really sparked a desire in me to make films one day. When we got our first video camera, we made more short movies than I can count. As I grew older, the Lord really turned my heart toward ministering through films, and it's been more fulfilling than I ever imagined.

    3. Do you feel more comfortable being behind the scenes of a movie or in front of the camera?

    I love most aspects of filmmaking. I enjoy the process of telling a story, from directing to editing. I've enjoyed playing a role, but also enjoyed just focusing on being behind the scenes (as I did in Fireproof). The joy comes when the movie all fits together and the story works. God has been incredible in turning hearts toward him through each story, and I'm thrilled he lets me be a part of it!

    4. What did your kids say the first time they saw you on the screen?

    They were very young and took it for granted. In fact, at one time they thought that I knew everyone in EVERY movie. They were disappointed when they learned that I only knew the people in our films. Today, they realize that not every dad has his own films.

    5. Are you a Red Bull fan, or is it coffee?

    Believe it or not, I've never had a cup of coffee in my life. I took a sip of black coffee as a kid and thought it tasted terrible. However, I have had a Red Bull or two. You have to be careful, though. Those things can send you through the roof!


    This post was posted in Movies, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Courageous, Fireproof, The Lost Medallion, Alex Kendrick, Facing the Giants

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